I know I am awake. The sun seems awfully bright and the place where I am laying is awfully hard. My head hurts and I can feel the blood pumping in my temples. I crack open my left eye and scan the area I am in. The room is totally unfamiliar to me. I’ve never been here before. I open my right eye and try to focus on this room. Several questions of significance come to mind. Where am I? How did I get here? Why am I here? What the heck is going on?! Next, I realize I am not dressed. I keep my eyes closed from the orange ball of flame outside the porthole. I try to think back to the very last thing I remember. Then my fuzzy mind starts to recall the last 24-hours.
It started out as a normal day. Woke up at about 0700, drank a cup of coffee, changed into my running sweats, walked Roxie for half-mile, returned her home, ran my normal 3.5 miles, showered, recorded my stats, then I go blank. What happened next? Was my wife home? Was I in the spare room? It all seemed blank.
I returned to my present state. I opened my eyes again, and with a start, I realized I saw the sun raining down orange streaks of bright light through a porthole. A porthole? Then the ringing in my ears starts to get replaced with the deep throated sound of a diesel engine. Not just any diesel engine. It was a 651 grey marine diesel. This can’t be I tell myself. And it wasn’t just one 651 grey marine diesel, it was four. There is only one source of four grey marine engines in my background. It was on an LCM-8, from Viet Nam. But that was just short of 50 years ago. I am sure this is the well deck of a LCM-8, but it has a roof on it and the interior is painted white instead of haze grey. What was I doing on a landing craft? Was I in a dream? Where am I!?
I try to rise off the surface that I am laying on. My head still throbbing, I can feel the sway of the gentle current through the hull of the boat. Normally, I would love this feeling, but right now I am confused and looking for the hatch to get me topside. I look around and fail to see any type of hatch or door. It is strange and I almost go into a panic with claustrophobia. Then I spy the door towards the back of the compartment I am in. I stumble like a drunk sailor towards the door, when, all of a sudden it comes open and in steps someone. I’m not sure who it is.
My thoughts run towards having been kidnaped. For what purpose I can’t fathom. I don’t have much money, I’ve been a working stiff all my life; including my 22 years in the Navy. What could this be all about? What could someone want with me? And, where are my clothes?
The man who entered into the compartment isn’t smiling nor acting too friendly. He is dressed in a wet suite like divers on the coast have. He has a deep tan face, the brightest blue eyes I have ever seen and this is quite a contrast to his tan. He is about six foot four inches, maybe 230 -240 pounds. Not an ounce of fat on him. He stands in front of me for a few seconds. He said, “I’m Master Chief Majors. I’m the dive master for this event.”
I am thinking to myself, “Event?” Event often means a scenario or mission. Now I am really confused. I say, “Master Chief, how and why am I on a Mike boat from Viet Nam?”
At my question Master Chief Majors lets out a deep throated laugh. Then he said, “Viet Nam? Chief do you have any clue where you are?”
Now I am beginning to think I am dead and have been assigned to some forbidden place in Hell.
Master Chief Majors then asked me, “Chief Bauer, do you know what today is?”
I’m thinking this is some kind of joke and the Master Chief is trying to scare me. So, with that I said, “Sure, it is Tuesday, September 30, 2015.”
My answer only brought up another laugh from the Master Chief. And, that laugh made me smile. It put me at ease. That is when the Master Chief said, “Chief Bauer, you on a United States Navy dive boat, approximately 12 miles from Guam.”
At this my eyes must have grown as big as a pie plate. I said, “Guam? I haven’t been to Guam since 1995.” I remember the year very well because I was on my final deployment on a submarine.
Master Chief Majors then explained to me that after our upkeep the boat was departing for our home port in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He said a rogue wave from the tail of a strong typhoon came alongside the boat while the topside handlers were stowing lines and equipment below desks. He went on to say the waves angle caused the boat to list almost 45 degrees to starboard. It appears I slipped and struck my head against the sails handrail and went into the sea. Then a strong current carried me away from the boat. As the boat was calling away man overboard, I continued to drift away. The only thing keeping me afloat, the Master Chief said, was my life preserver.
Nevertheless, the ships diver was unable to reach me as I was being pulled away from the side of the boat. And the ships lookout could tell I was unconscious. Soon, it appeared I dropped below the water and was presumed to have gone to meet Davie Jones.
The Master Chief said he and his crew were dispatched from base and took over an hour to reach the spot where I was last seen. Daylight was beginning to wane and search lights were brought out to continue a sweep of the water. There was no sign of me, the Master Chief said. Once the Master Chief and his crew arrived on the scene, they put on their dive gear to retrieve the body they thought would be below the waves.
I begin to think this is a bizarre story. There has to be a punchline somewhere in this. The Master Chief continued his report to me, and his voice indicated he was as puzzled as me. When they found me, I was about 10 feet under water. They drop the harness and strapped me into it. Then they hoisted me aboard the dive boat and attempted to resuscitate me. Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Trindell broke out his recovery gear and was preparing to place me in a body bag. He followed his instincts instead and looked for heart rate and breathing. Although I wasn’t breathing, my heart was faint with a pulse. Senior Chief Trindell placed an oxygen bottle mask on me and began feeding me the necessary air I needed to keep my brain activity going. The dive crew took turns watching over me as I slowly regained my normal breathing and heart rate. As night drifted into day and the dive boat was headed back to port and eventually to the hospital all of this event was relayed to me.
To me the most interesting thing is having seen myself 20-years ago in this place. Only God knows the future and only He will share that future with a few. Was I dead? God knows. Was I given a glimpse of the future? God knows. But, today, I know I am awake.