|U.S. Navy SEALs|
Yesterday I hitchhiked from Valentine to Merriman. I phoned Steve and he drove to town and took me and his son, Will, to a local cafe for dinner. Steve and his wife Carol have a cattle ranch thirteen miles from Merriman. Their son, Brock, and their daughter, Tiffany, also work on the ranch. Steve had picked me up hitchhiking back in 2006, so I thought I would stop by and say hello.
Steve, Will and myself sat down at a table and ordered something to eat. A few minutes later, this other guy walked in and sat down with us. He looked like he was in his late 50s. His name was Chuck.
We talked about various things: ranching, hitchhiking, politics. Chuck then started talking about his experience in the Vietnam War. He was a Navy SEAL that had graduated from BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) Training in 1972. Chuck talked at length about some of his firefights in the jungles of Southeast Asia. He said that the average life expectancy of a lieutenant in Vietnam was eleven minutes. Chuck was once shot out of a tree by an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade); he was providing covering fire for his team when the explosion of the grenade knocked him out of the tree. He had intense, penetrating eyes; it looked like he had been to hell and back.
I asked Chuck if he had seen the film We Were Soldiers and if it was a realistic account of combat in Vietnam. He said that he had seen the film and that it was very realistic. Chuck said that he had met Hal Moore (the author of the book We Were Soldiers) and thought that he was the best officer in Vietnam. I believe Moore had retired as a general in the U.S. Army.
Chuck had a son who fought recently in Afghanistan. He was an Airborne Ranger. Chuck talked a little about his son's combat experiences on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Some people think that the Navy SEALs are the best elite warriors in the world and some people think that the British SAS are the best. I asked Chuck if he had ever met any British SAS; he said that he had met a few. I could tell that Chuck knew where I was going with this: are the SAS the best warriors in the world? Chuck told me that the Israeli Special Forces were "deadly"; he had absolute respect for them and for Mossad (Israeli Intelligence). He said that the Israeli Special Forces were the best elite soldiers on the planet.
We finished our dinner and I shook Chuck's hand. It was a great honor to talk with a U.S. Navy SEAL.
I remember watching a documentary on President Harry Truman. Since a child, Truman had to wear glasses--he was pretty much blind without them. In a World War I photo of Captain Harry Truman, he had his glasses off. The commentator of the documentary said that Harry Truman had eyes of steel. Chuck, the Vietnam Veteran, had eyes of steel.
I stayed overnight at Steve and Carol's ranch. Steve, Carol, Tiffany and myself had excellent fellowship at the supper table. Tiffany was hoping to get into a Christian college in North Carolina. I told them a number of my stories of hitchhiking around the United States. They have a beautiful ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska. I was grateful to have met Steve's family. I also met Steve's dad and step-mom. Steve's dad writes for three newspapers in Nebraska and one in South Dakota. Steve's dad gave me a copy of a booklet that he had published; these were newspaper articles that were published during the previous year.
Right now I am in Chadron. I may be heading south to Alliance tomorrow.
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