If Morning Never Comes
Bill Vandenbush
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Buy *If Morning Never Comes* online

If Morning Never Comes

Bill Vandenbush
Old Hundred and One Press
248 pages
September 2004
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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If Morning Never Comes is the compelling and courageous story of Bill Vandenbush’s life and his spiritual awakening. His tale starts in 1967. It was the “Summer Of Love” and Bill grew his hair long, wore bell-bottom pants and got lost in his dreams as he listened to the rock, folk and psychedelic music of the time. It wasn’t a fancy dream. It was one of optimism and of living ideally.

“I wanted to accomplish something in life. I wanted to be respected, but had no real desire for fame and fortune. Believe it or not, at the age of eighteen, my ultimate desire was to be a middle-class American, to have a house, a car, a wife, and children. I was a hippie and a young man.”
Bill graduated from high school and had a blast with his buddy Bob at the Monterey Pop Festival that summer. Those were the last of his lazy days. He soon got a few unfulfilling menial jobs that paid decent but quit them anyway. He had a sense that there was something else he was supposed to be doing. While driving through San Juan Capistrano, Bill suddenly felt a deep calm and awash with warm air as a voice inside him said, “Follow your spirit.”

Early in 1968, Bill had a big fight with his dad. They weren’t getting along for a few years as their generations clashed; Bill didn’t want to conform to the norm’s of his father’s generation, and his father didn’t agree with what he thought was his anti-establishment ideals. So what did Bill do? With an ever-escalating war in Vietnam and vehement protests around the country, Bill joined the Army with his buddy Dennis.

The next few chapters are dedicated to his experiences in basic training and Advanced Infantry Training (AIT): the skills learned, the exercise, his pride in wearing the uniform, his thoughts and feelings on the realities of the Army as compared to the John Wayne/Boy scout mentality he grew up with. Bill eventually was deployed to Vietnam, where he had tremendous anxiety and didn’t feel like a “real” soldier until he was out fighting. Once he was issued his M-16 with ammo and thrust into real live combat Bill changed drastically – twice!

“I felt like a hunted and tormented animal. I became consumed with thoughts of killing, of taking human life and of striking back. I wanted to be the hunter, not the hunted. I wanted to inflict as much pain and agony on the enemy as possible and I wanted to keep the enemy as far away from me as I could. I believed and knew that there were only two ways out of this – death or the passage of time. I worked hard to achieve numbness. I didn’t care about anything except protecting myself and staying alive, or dying. Either one was an adequate alternative. Our squad had been under a lot of stress and I’d seen a lot of dying and death. As the months passed by, I became more accustomed to reacting in the basic survival 'animal' mode.”
This was a far cry from the hippie boy he once was. He not only matured into man in a hurry, but the atrocities of war affected him in a profound psychological way. He needed to remove his humanity and adopt a “kill or be killed” approach to his daily life to survive, essentially bidding farewell to any feeling of normalcy. The months in combat and unconscionable amount of death he’d soaked in transformed him into an apathetic, hardened soldier. But it would get worse. While fighting in the rice paddies, he was struck by a searing hot chunk of shrapnel – in the face. This is where he had his spiritual awakening. He was lying bloody on the ground as he accepted his death, but instead he saw balls of energy and comforting lights. He spoke with angels and heard the soothing voice of his grandfather. He wasn’t the raging, evil soldier anymore. But there was another damaging blow to come as he was then shot several times at close range.

This for sure would have killed him, but Bill had supreme belief in the spiritual experience he had. This spirituality helped give him the strength to survive Vietnam but also the multiple surgeries and lengthy rehabilitation it took to recover from the injuries. His spirituality was tested many times as Bill battled with the depression (what he later learned was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) endemic to many soldiers who came back from Vietnam. Though tested many, many times it was his spirituality that helped guide him through all the transitions of his life.

Overall, Bill’s story is tremendously inspiring. Whether you call it spirituality or sheer motivation, you have to admire his dogged determination to continually better himself in the face of such adversity.

© 2005 by Bobby Blades for curledup.com.

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