Meet Hallie Sawyer, a writer from Kansas City who is continuing my guest writer series, with this piece on the utter importance of split seconds:
When Jessica asked me to write a post about something I’m thankful that didn’t happen, I have to admit, I was a little stumped. I have much to be thankful for and I racked my brain for the right thing. But Veteran’s Day came along and I found it.
That day I watched a lot videos of veterans reuniting with their families and cried watching every one. Because I know that many of their lives had been spared by only minutes, seconds, even milliseconds.
Some 40 years ago, that was my father coming home to his wife. He wasn’t the same man, body or mind, as the one she had said goodbye to, but he was alive. My father had been assigned to a reconnoissance team and had endured a lot, they all had, but finally he had his release papers and he was headed home. But not without scars.
A bullet grazed his head during one encounter. He was forced to hide in haystacks all night in a torrential rainstorm while the Viet Cong poked with pitchforks looking for them. And he witnessed one of his men die from jumping on a land mine to save them. He has the shrapnel in his skull to keep that memory close. Malaria wreaked havoc on his body. He was more than ready to be gone from that God-forsaken place. He had done his job and he was going home.
The chopper transporting him out of Hell had to make a detour. My father quickly registered that the place they needed to “swing by” was a hot zone, which meant they would be fired upon. The pilot told them they needed to pick up a wounded soldier and that it was going to be a drop in and lift off, not even touching the ground. Just one last mission.
They arrived, dropped in and got the soldier safely on board. So far, so good. But before they could breathe again, my father heard, “Sawyer! Hit the deck!” He did what he was told as he watched an enemy soldier stand on a distant hill with a rocket launcher on his shoulder. The rocket was aimed directly at their Huey.
Here is where the thankful part comes in. Both doors on either side of the chopper were still open. The rocket screamed through both open doors and exploded on the hillside beyond them.
I am thankful the chopper doors had not been shut. A second may have been the difference between me sitting here today and not existing.