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Dick Erickson: My Surreal Encounter in Vietnam

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 27, 2023 3:01 am

Dick Erickson: My Surreal Encounter in Vietnam

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 27, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, the story of Dick Erickson, a Marine helicopter pilot who served in Vietnam.

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Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. Let's ride. Let's just say a surreal experience as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Here's Joey. Dick Erickson was a marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam and would go on to start his own retail tire business. But before he became the man he is today, he was a different man. As a student, quick to anger, Dick often got into trouble. I was fooling with one of my friends and the principal was in and out because it was a study hall.

And we were goofing off. In comes the principal and he gets after me to start with. And my buddy standing behind him waving his hands to get me to laugh.

And so here I am trying to be serious with my principal. And so I'm trying to look around him like, hey, someone's behind you, waving his hands at me. So finally he turns around and Marvin gets his hands down quick enough that he didn't see his hands up. So now he's chewing him up. And I get into the deal and I'm waving my hands except when he turns around, I got my hands straight in the air. And he slaps me. Next thing you know, we were on the ground. I was knocked over rows of chairs. And I was swearing at him afterwards.

Well, I completely lost it. And in college, with the distraction of girls and booze, his grades suffered. I got noticed two weeks into that quarter that I'm out of school for a year.

That was for grades. And I can remember standing out in front of the big main hall with the guy who gave me the news. He was head of our music department, Mr. Van Vlissinger. And I said, Doctor, do you understand?

They're going to draft me. He said, Erickson, you should have understood that when you're out playing around. Just before I went in the Marine Corps, a friend of mine came up to me, who was a year older than me, and he'd been in the Army.

He was home. He was out of the Army. And he said, Dick, you'll never make it in the Marine Corps. And I said, why is that, Gordy? And he said, because one of the drill instructors is going to get in your face and touch you, and you're going to lose it. And you'll be in a brig. And that comment kept me from retaliating.

And so I had those growth deals for me was to, you know, not screw up my life. Getting ahead of the draft, Dick enrolled in officer training school to become a Marine helicopter pilot. Though he was a Christian, Dick hadn't really owned that identity for himself. And while in Vietnam, he encountered what some might call a God-wink that would help him become the man he is today. One time we got this prisoner, and they wanted to take him down to the coastline at the division headquarters for interrogation. And that was probably an hour and a half flight for us. And we had single-engine aircraft, and we did not like to fly at night over the mountains. So they said, guys, crank them up.

Let's go. So we cranked up our helicopters, two of us, two helicopters went down there. We dropped him off, and then we said, well, we'll take... We took him the most expedient way was over the mountains. We could have kind of gone down through valleys and stuff. Probably taken us an extra 30 minutes or so. But we went kind of the more direct route. Well, trouble was, every time you're flying, some needs of the helicopter come up.

You'd be missing something, or you'd need some sort of parts brought up by the guys the next day. So we were trying to get up with our base station that night, which was up the coast a little further. And the static was so bad that night that we couldn't make contact. And we'd listen, and it'd be something like, we'd always use the Sirapapa base, which would be our base.

This is Sirapapa 15 would be our call sign. And so we were going back and forth like this, trying to connect with our base. And the static was so bad, finally just absolutely cleared up. No sound. And this voice comes up and says, this is the Lord.

I will relay for you. Couldn't hear anything at all. Didn't hear the engines running. Absolutely silence. The voice said, I will get your message to your base camp. Trouble was, we never got back on the radio.

No one talked to each other. You think someone would quickly say, who said that? It was so, I don't know what the word would be, but it was so tough. It was such a hit on us. It was just like the Lord had spoken.

And in my mind, he had. No one says anything. We got about 20 minutes to get up to the base. Case on.

No one speaks. Finally, we had to get on the radio to get Clarence to land at the base. Got on it. Everyone jumps out of the aircraft. Did you hear that? Did you? Everyone heard it.

But no one, everyone is affected the point they could not talk about it until they hit ground. It was absolutely the most startling, scary thing I'd ever heard. Did I ever hear another voice like that in my 13 months that was completely clear?

No. So that brought my spiritual, it was kind of a wake up call for me. I better get my head straight here. There is some things beyond just what we were going through. Which didn't fully sink in until after coming back from Vietnam and marrying his wife, Diane. We went on a marriage encounter. You have a couple couples that over the weekend starts Thursday night and they just talk about how to have a good marriage.

That had probably been a new Catholic about a year. Diane had been after me to go to this event. And she said, Dick, I said, OK, they say we can't take any wine. I'm not going unless they take a bottle of wine. She said, what else do you want to do?

So it's OK if I take the wine? Yeah, OK. So I go and about half the group, the husband and wives are quite friendly, you know, arms around their wives and all that.

And I've never been about showing a lot of affection in public. So I'm looking around, I'm going, I got to put up with this for two and a half days. And so we go through this. But this is Thursday night. By Friday night, I'm sitting a little closer to Diane and I'm kind of enjoying this. By Saturday, I mean, I got my arm around her.

I am into this. And now it's confession time. What the priest did, he would come up to your room. He'd go from room to room in this motel and have confession. And then you go into the bathroom for your penance.

And I'm still kind of new at this. I'm you know, I've been through a few confessions, but I hadn't overworked it at all. So I have my confession and I and father says, Dick, I want you to step in the bathroom. And I want you to take as much time as you can give it to thank the Lord for all the things he's done for you. I said, OK. So I go into the bathroom. I make it about three minutes and I'm sobbing like a baby.

And I remember coming back and I'm going, oh, I mean, you're so fired up. I'm over here now. Turned my heart over the Lord. I said, I'm sorry. I've been on the outside looking in the window, knowing what those good Christians are doing, but I won't go in the door.

I'm not going in there. You know, I didn't know the goodness of the Lord for sure. At that point, I'd seen it in my wife.

I'd seen it in my my parents and other Christians. But I was this tough Marine. I was, you know, I had just some screwed up thinking I had.

And so when that night, all of a sudden I just was pulled away from me and then I could. But I didn't realize how much I had to go through to turn my heart over the Lord. And people say, you know, it's like process.

She was born again. That's one way to say it. But, you know, however you want to explain it, that, Lord, I'm sorry, you're in charge. I've been trying to run this and I, I just thought this isn't my job. It's your job.

Me to follow you. And what a story. Dick Erickson, well, sharing his heart and his faith with all of us. And great job as always to Joey for bringing us this story. Clearly, he had an encounter. A bunch of the men did in that chopper, but then he had a marriage encounter. And this is where the rubber hits the road. I didn't realize how much I had to go through to turn my heart over to the Lord. This tough Marine said, Lord, I'm sorry, you're in charge.

And well, Christians know what those words mean. By the way, you can catch the rest of the story in his book, How the Rubber Meets the Road, a blue collar roadmap to success for business owners and entrepreneurs. You can buy it at

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-27 17:49:42 / 2023-02-27 17:55:18 / 6

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