Stories of American Heroes - Brought to you from the "Home of Heroes" - Pueblo, Colorado
Amigo, asta leugo
It was Sunday night and as usual I was at our chapel for the Sunday evening service, the only one of its kind in our unit. It was a very informal service consisting of lively singing, personal testimonies, and group sharing. We were singing when I heard someone coming in late and turned in time to see Jaime take a seat near the back of the chapel. He caught my eye and nodded and I acknowledged his presence with a similar silent nod of the head. This was Jaime's first visit to our chapel service, and knowing he was Catholic I was somewhat surprised to see him visit our less orthodox worship session.
When the service concluded I invited Jaime to stick around and visit over a cold soda. As we walked to the group in a corner of the chapel I told him, "It sure is good to see you here, Jaime." It had only be a few days since I had pulled my last mission with Ranger Team 75. I had written my story, made copies of all the pictures for the men of the team, and was busily getting my affairs in order to depart Vietnam the following week.
"It's good to be here," Jaime replied with a smile, and I knew he sincerely meant it. "You know something Doug," he continued, "It is kind of funny the way we met. I knew the first time I saw you that you were a Christian and God had sent you out with our team just so you and I could meet."
Now I smiled. "Yes Jaime, that is the way God is. He works out all these things with some master plan we may not understand, but it all has a reason. I wouldn't want to be here and not be a Christian. It really is a good life."
"It sure is Doug. Boy, I'll tell you something, God is sure good!" And that was the first time I heard Jaime mention the phrase that I now associate with him in every fond remembrance.
The following evening I was again at the chapel, this time to practice some music with "The King's Children", a gospel singing group I had started on the base a few months earlier. We were singing a Bill Gaither song titled "Jesus, There's Just Something About That Name" (the song you are hearing in the background now) when I noticed Jaime come in and again take a seat at the back of the chapel. As we sang I saw a noticeable glow in his eyes, and when we finished he looked up quietly and said, "I hope I'm not interrupting anything, but that is the most beautiful song I have ever heard. Would you sing it again for me?" We did, and as we sang one couldn't miss the tears that formed in Jaime's eyes. I couldn't help but think that there sat a man deeply in love with Jesus Christ.
Several times that week Jaime returned to listen to us as we practiced, and always he would ask us to sing that same song over and over again. It became his favorite, as well as ours.
Often during that week Jaime and I would talk late into the night. He had many questions about the Bible, about Jesus, and about living the Christian life. In that week we became close, very close. For me it was a new experience for I had always been somewhat of a loner who avoided close ties to any person. But in that last week a bond of brotherly love grew between us that I shall never understand or forget.
Jaime also spoke often of his family back home, and especially his wife and small son. He informed me that his wife made "the best Mexican food you have ever ate and will ever eat. A Big Brag but it can be kept." We made a pact that, when Jaime finally returned home I would come and visit his home in Hobbs, New Mexico, meet his family, and prove his brag about his wife's cooking.
Mid-week came and on Wednesday Jaime left on a mission with his team. I hoped and prayed he would get back before I left for home as I was scheduled to depart the following Monday. Sunday arrived all too quickly but I was thrilled to see Jaime walk into the chapel service that evening. He took a seat beside me in the front and together we sang, we prayed, and we worshipped God.
When the service concluded we gathered again at the rear of the chapel to visit. I spent a good deal of time saying "good-by" to my friends before they returned to their barracks. When everyone else was gone I turned to Jaime and said, "I have to stop by the office tonight, so I can walk that far with you on your way back to the Ranger compound."
We stepped outside the chapel and the beauty of the night was enough to warm the heart. The sky was clear with a scattering of stars and a bright moon. The air was warm with a breeze that was refreshing but not too hot or too cold. I was struck by the magnificence of God's creation, even in a war zone. "Thank you God", I said silently, "for beautiful nights like this, and for the kind of friendship You have given me and Jaime."
As we walked we talked again of family and friends, but mostly about Jesus. There was a real sadness in parting but it was also a time of joy in the realization that, when the bond of Christian love exists, you are never far separated.
Then we were at the door to the Public Information Office where I was to clean out the last of my personal effects. We paused for a long moment of silence, neither of us wanting to say goodbye. For a moment I felt guilty. For months I had tried to extend for yet another tour and been denied each time. I wanted to stay in Vietnam and was being sent home anyway. Jaime had a wife and young son. He not only wanted to be home, he needed to be home. I wished that somehow we could trade places, even wondered if I was deserting my friends by leaving. It was an emotion packed, awkward time of silence, neither of us wanting to say goodbye.
Then Jaime looked at me and smiled. "You know Doug, God is good." I smiled again at his classic statement. "We won't say goodbye, for we'll meet again someday, somewhere."
"Yes, Jaime," I replied fighting back a rush of tears, "we'll meet again. Just as soon as you are back in the States I'll be knocking on your door, just waiting to try your wife's cooking."
"Whatever happens, God IS good!"
"Yes Jaime, He sure is."
"I better be going Doug. Amigo, Asta Leugo." And then he was gone, walking away into the night. The tears came as I watched him leave. And then, just before he disappeared from view I experienced a strange feeling. I knew that I was looking at Jaime Pacheco for the last time.
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