Death in Combat Essay to Be Published

Last week, the publisher of the Marine Corps Gazette informed me via email that he will publish an article written by the man in prison with whom I have been communicating regularly for the last four years. Our letters to each other started when he read one of my books and wrote to me. We have been writing two or three times a week ever since.

This man, whose name I’m not using to protect his privacy, was in Vietnam while I was there. He was navy corpsman, a medical technician caring on the battlefield for Marine Corps fighters wounded in combat. He served with the 1st Marine Division in the Chu Lai area of South Vietnam in 1967. In the summer and fall of that year, I was operating in the central highlands, a few miles west of the 1st Marine Division, but I never met him.

The man was wounded twice. For his service, he received a Purple Heart, a Gold Star (for the second wounding), and a Bronze Star with “V” for valor. He suffers, as I do, from Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), a psychological wound to the soul resulting from combat. We are brothers in arms.

After we started communicating, it became obvious to me that he had a flare for writing. So I encouraged him to write for publication. At my behest, he wrote a number of different articles and one short story that I then edited and put in the required format for submission. Several have been published.

But the piece that moved me most was his essay about coping with death in combat. In it, my friend describes watching his fellow combatants killed before his eyes. I myself observed multiple deaths on the battlefield and was struck by the accuracy and veracity of his words. I was determined to get his piece published, but I wanted it to appear in the most prestigious of all military periodicals, the Marine Corps Gazette. I submitted and waited. And waited. And waited.

Then, last week, I got word that the Gazette has accepted the piece and would publish it later this year. I immediately wrote to my friend. We are celebrating together, even though at a distance, even though we have never met face-to-face.

I have always believed that true merit will ultimately be rewarded. The publication of my friend’s essay by a leading periodical is one more piece of evidence that I’m right.

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