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       I do not recall any thoughts regarding my fate while serving in Vietnam. Like any young man, I believed the bad stuff would happen to 'somebody else', and it usually did.  Many times the pucker factor was high.  I sure saw my share of muzzle flashes from guns directed at me.  I also remember the feeling I had... (the sense of complete vulnerability...) while diving straight into those muzzle flashes.  The front seat of a snake is a very unique position from which to view these things.  You have the best seat in the house..  Totally unobstructed view, nothing but plexiglas for shelter, no place to hide and completely at the mercy of the backseaters whims... Plus, those bullets have to go through me before they got to him.... or so it felt.  Yet there was also this sense that, while circling above the LOHs in the AO, I was like a fly on the wall... that somehow we were observing, unnoticed from a safe vantage point.  I think the enclosed cockpit gave me (us?) that false impression.

         It certainly explains part of what made it possible to take some of the risks... you see, in 1972, outside of possible air crewmen of downed aircraft, there was nobody on the ground that required our life-saving efforts...  there were no grunts down there..  at least not where I was].. but I digress......

         The point I was getting to is this...  I was scared, sure.  I experienced extreme pucker factors.  I recall trying to 'will' the bullets to miss me, all the while expecting them to hit me, but semi-certain they would not.  I never accepted the prospect of dying.

         THEN....  on a B-52 BDA mission, I tangled up with three heavy machine guns. I got two of them, one got me...  a single 12.7mm AP round came through the left side and passed through my left ankle and my right foot.  Wow, what shock...  and what a loud noise it made..  BANG!  Sounded like an explosion. Any rate, and I won't go into details here (future TINS someday) but I clearly remember my initial thoughts as I looked at the huge holes in my boots....  "It finally happened"...  like it was inevitable and I had been expecting it....  "It had finally happened".  Steve Shepard

Entry wound

Exit wound

This is the core of the 12.7mm armor-piercing projectile that hit me. The brass jacket was stripped off during impact.