The story of God in my life revolves around a near tragedy I experienced on December 23, 1965. I was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany with the U.S. Army. I was a Fixed and Rotary Wing Technical inspector. I was part of a maintenance crew that took a UH-1B from Heidelberg to the Army Maintenance depot in Mannheim, Germany and dropped it off for scheduled overhaul and rebuild. Once we dropped off the helicopter we picked up a U8-D twin engine fixed wing aircraft that had just completed rebuild to take back to Heidelberg.
There were four of us in the aircraft, two pilots, myself and a maintenance Sergeant. On takeoff the landing gear malfunctioned and the right main gear came up through the wing, the nose gear would not retract or lock into the down position. We flew to Heidelberg and did a close fly by on the tower, they confirmed our landing gear malfunction. We were diverted to an Air Force runway at Hockinghiem, Germany to attempt an engine off landing on a foamed runway.
The area around the Hockinghiem landing strip was mountainous; we made several passes around the airstrip to burn off excess fuel before attempting the dead stick landing. The pilot asked if we were ready and we all gave a thumbs up, he brought the aircraft around and lined it up with the runway; he then cut power to both engines. Due to the mountainous terrain there was a significant updraft just before the end of the runway, we hit that updraft and the aircraft stalled out, we immediately began to fall. I bowed my head and began to say the Lord’s Prayer, as I was praying I suddenly felt a presence in the seat next to me, and a calm came over me, I still believed I was going to die but at that moment I knew I was in God’s hands. I could not see anyone or anything in the seat but I could feel the presence.
We hit the ground about that time and I watched everything happen as if in slow motion. I watched plexiglas from the cockpit float back toward the rear of the aircraft. I watched the maintenance Sergeant's head go through the window on the right side of the aircraft and come back in; I felt he was fortunate he was wearing a helmet. As we came to rest I stood up and went to the back of the aircraft, the door handle was frozen and I kicked the door open. An Air force rescue team member was standing there ready to spray me with foam. I heard one of the pilots moan and started back to the front of the plane. We helped each other out of the plane and were immediately taken to the base hospital. I was the least seriously injured with only one compressed vertebrae, both pilots had significant back injuries as did the maintenance Sergeant. I later learned that the aircraft had hit on an downward slope that was moist from recent rains, both engines were torn from the wings and both wings were torn from the body of the aircraft. The body of the aircraft then went airborne and over a fuel storage area before coming to rest.
As I lay in my hospital bed that night and the realization set in that I had been touched by, and in the presence of the spirit of the Lord that day I experienced many emotions including fear, something I had not felt up until that moment. My belief could no longer be based just upon faith, for I had been blessed to experience the presence of the Spirit of the Lord. My Savior continued to walk with me and protect me through 23 years of military service, 2 tours in Vietnam, multiple heart bypass surgery and MDS. My life has been richer and fuller thanks to the presence of the Lord in my life. He Lives!