Unlike Anything Before or Since

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I was hospitalized in Vietnam with burns from the above combat action. The doctors were trying to stabilize me so I could make the flight to a hospital in Japan. I have no recollection of boarding the aircraft and came to full consciousness the next day in Japan in a hospital bed in the burn ward.

My roommate in Japan had lost an arm and a leg and was severely burned too. When he saw I was aware and awake, he rushed to tell me a story about his fire team coming to him, perhaps in a dream, but they had all been killed in the same action where he got wounded. They spoke to him and told him to relax and not worry about them or feel guilty about surviving and not saving them. Just get on with your life now, “We’re OK."

He asked me if that was a real experience or a dream. I told him that I did not know, but I would pay close attention to what his team had to say. As he told me this, my out-of-body experience came back to me in a rush out of nowhere. Until that moment, I had no conscious recollection of it. As he spoke, I remembered being in a C-130 hospital ship, stacked floor to ceiling with stretchers all holding other wounded GIs. I can see the interior of that plane and all the rest of it as clearly today as I did then.

I was watching myself on this stretcher and this did not seem in the least unusual. Two air force nurse captains were working on me. One had my nose pinched-off and was giving me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The other had her left hand on the center of my breastbone and with her right hand was pounding my chest rhythmically.

I watched this dispassionately as I sensed that I was going up and away, further and further back from the scene, to a wonderful, cool, white-light place that was so beautiful, unlike anything I ever knew, before or since. It held for me a tremendous sense of peace and serenity, but then I realized what was happening and wordlessly said, "No, wait. Not now” (like I had too much left to do). I came to about a day later in Japan, knowing I was safe. That's when I heard my fellow-patient's story.   

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