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Testimonies - Mike Hauenstein                                                                       Return to Testimonies

June 17th , 1970. The day I almost went to Hell… the day my life changed forever….the day God gave me a second chance to live.

My outfit, the 3rd of the 12th, 4th Infantry Division, had been sent up a mountain in the central highlands of Viet Nam to destroy a cache of enemy weapons and explosives. Completing our mission, we were filing back down the mountain, when suddenly we heard the point man screaming in pain. He had stepped on a punji stick, a sharpened, and poisoned, booby trap. Simultaneously, the Viet Cong ambushed us from behind. Quickly shrugging off my rucksack full of explosives, I was getting ready to fire my M-16 rifle, when I felt the fiery impact of a Russian AK-47 round enter my body about an inch below my left shoulder blade, striking my spine. This was comparable to having your arms tied to a dragster pointed north, and your legs tied to a dragster pointed south, and at a given command, both speed away in opposite directions posthaste; and that instant, your body, stretched and torn,  sends a thunderbolt of information to your brain: PAIN.

After the pain subsided a bit, leaning on my weapon with the firing continuing around me, I thought to call the medic to help me. I could not think of his name, so just like in the movies, I yelled, “ Medic! ” After saying that word, the most wonderful sight I can remember entered my field of vision. Amid the gunfire, out in the open, unprotected, came Paul McCombie on his hands and knees, with his little bag of medical supplies swaying back and forth under him.

I could never tell you in words what it meant for me to have that brave man risk his life, under fire, to help me. Knowing I was wounded very seriously, helpless, fearful that I would be shot again – I found comfort because this fellow soldier was beside me. Years later, that medic told me that after looking at my wound that day, he wondered if I could survive, and if I did, what kind of horrible life it would have.

Then, Paul gave me morphine. Eventually other soldiers came up to be with me. Those two things took the edge off my fears enough so I was able to give my valuables to my friend, Louis Brown. He was to send them home to my mother.

After that, my consciousness of events taking place around me faded as an awareness of God enveloped my thoughts. I knew that I was probably dying and going to Hell. I had a conversation with God, and I told Him that I knew I was going to Hell because I had never asked Jesus to be my Saviour. I told God that I did not want to do it then because since I had never asked Him to save me when I was healthy, I did not want to be a hypocrite. (In reality, even though I was in serious trouble, I was too proud to turn to God.) Before this momentous day, I never even acknowledged God, I could have not told you that God even existed. How I had this conversation with Him on that mountainside in Viet Nam is a mystery to me. Furthermore, after I had that talk with God, I never even remembered it until seven years later.

Years later, I found out from my fellow soldiers that the radioman had called for a helicopter to evacuate several of us who had been wounded in the ambush. The helicopter was able to get there quickly because it was already in the area. There were two great problems though. We were on a mountainside with no place for the chopper to land, and it was running low on fuel. Several attempts were made to lift me above their heads into the door of the helicopter as it got as close to the ground as possible with no success, because I was unconscious and was dead weight. Finally, they lowered the helicopter for one last possible time. Thankfully, this time they were successful.

After stabilizing me, I was flown to a hospital in Japan where they dealt with my spinal cord injury. I remember the day the doctor came in and apologized to me. He said because of the severe damage, he had to medically tie my shredded spinal cord completely off. There was no chance I would ever feel my legs again, or walk under my own power. I was now permanently disabled. That thought had its own horrors for me, as I was only 20 years old. Though I was heavily medicated, I became conscious of a horrible headache which no drugs could help. I was diagnosed with an infection in my spine, due to it being mangled and opened. They began doing spinal taps, not in the sacral area but in the base of my skull. They had to do it repeatedly. They were trying to save my life, but the pain was nearly unendurable.

I felt like I was going to die, in fact, I did not even want to live in my condition. I had given up hope, when one day, my mom walked into my hospital room in Japan! When she was notified by the American Red Cross that I had been shot and was barely clinging to life, she raised a ruckus until they allowed her to come. At that point, having her to focus on, I began to want to live again.

I was transported stateside to Walter Reed Hospital, then onto the Cleveland VA where I would learn how to live my life in a wheelchair. After I was discharged, I spent the next two years drowning my sorrows in pills and booze. I lost touch with my army buddies. I came back different, and my friends at home in Lima, Ohio did not know how to be around a disabled person. I made some new friends, though. “Friends” who were glad to have a guy with money around that was ready to spend it and have some fun. I began gambling seriously, got my license taken away for five years because of drunk driving, shot a man in the face over a gambling argument (self-defense), and on and on. My life was spiraling out of control. Finally, I came to the realization that I had to do something constructive with my life. I decided to attend college on the G.I. Bill.

There was a new small college in Dayton, Ohio, Wright State University, whose goal  was to build its campus on the cutting edge of total accessibility for students that were impaired physically. They even had tunnels that connected the dormitory to the main campus, so we would not have to go out in bad weather.

The university was so small, there was only one dormitory. It had a wing for girls and one for guys, both were connected by a huge lobby. I was sitting in that lobby at the beginning of the school year, when I saw a girl walk through, and said to myself, “If I had her, I wouldn't need anything else.” After a stormy beginning, we eventually fell in love and were married in 1975.

We were married two years when Susan began searching for a life with more meaning. Her sister Pat had received Jesus Christ as her Saviour and had written to her about it, enclosing some booklets  about Biblical matters. Susan was intrigued and went to the local Christian bookstore to get more information. On the way to the cash register she saw a book entitled, The Bible Believer's Commentary on the Book of Revelation, by Dr. Peter S. Ruckman. She knew I had a little interest in prophecy, and thought I might enjoy reading it. The owners of the bookstore were Pastor Greg Estep and his wife, Judy. Pastor Estep was on duty that day, so Susan asked him about the Revelation commentary, and told him she wanted the best book on the subject. He told her that the one in her hand was the best.

Susan was not sure how I would receive the material. My wife tells me that before I was saved that she could not open up a Bible in front of me, without a negative reaction. Although she was not a true Christian, she was surprised that I was so against anything religious. After reading a few chapters, Susan brought it in to me one day saying, “Read this book and see what it has to say.” We passed that book back and forth for the next week, taking turns reading it in our spare time. As I began to read the book in earnest, this is what it showed me, as the author referred to various verses in the Bible:

(1) “…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God….” When I read that verse, Romans 3:23, I had to agree that indeed, I had done things that were wrong.  I had sinned.

(2) The book said that all people who die unsaved go to a place called Hell: “But I will forewarn you who ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” (Luke 12:5)  When the word “hell” was mentioned, I thought back to June 17 th , 1970, the day that I lay seriously wounded on the View Nam mountainside, on my way to hell, without hope. “It's true,” I thought, “there is a Hell.” I kept on reading. The book said that Jesus Christ was God, and that He died on the cross for my sins, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures – and, if I would believe that He did die for my sins, and ask Him to save me, I would be saved from going to Hell.

(3) This may seem strange to you, but I knew hell existed, even though  I did not know for sure that there was a God. I knew that I would have gone to Hell had I died that day in Viet Nam, and nothing since I was shot had changed my course from that direction. Though I knew I deserved to, I did not want to go to Hell. In the best way I could, I told God that I was willing to believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures. I then asked the Lord Jesus Christ to be my Saviour. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) I called upon His name and asked Him to save me from going to Hell. God saved me at that moment, and I have been saved ever since. I could never go to Hell because I have trusted in God's Word. He made the promise and I took Him up on it. The term for this is “faith.”  (“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6) I called my wife into the bedroom and told her I had prayed and asked the Lord to be my Saviour and asked her if she would like to pray as well. She had been wanting to be saved, but did not know how. That day was in late October of 1977, the day we were both wonderfully saved from Hell.

Have you ever placed your “faith” in what God has said about the salvation of your soul? Have you ever trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ to be your personal Saviour? If not, let me tell you that He loves you, and is not willing that you perish and go to Hell when you die. He wants you to trust in Him, in His Word, and in what He did for you on Calvary over 2000 years ago.

Hell is a literal place where people go when they die, if they are not saved. As a former soldier, I know somewhat of the fears and horrors of war. I want you, my friend, to be prepared to die with the assurance that you will go to Heaven. Do not be like me on that day in June of 1970, at the gates of death and Hell, with no hope of salvation. That is why I am telling you about Jesus.  Do not delay in receiving Jesus Christ as your Saviour. He is the way to Heaven. Just ask Him, and see for yourself.

The Bible says:  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”. (Act 16:31) “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe I thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”  (Romans 10:9) “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Romans 10:13

If you are not sure you would go to Heaven when you die, here is a prayer you can pray: “God, I know that I am a sinner who should go to Hell for the sins that I have committed. I want to trust in what the Lord Jesus Christ did for me, dying on the cross for my sins so that I could be saved, and rising again the third day according to the scriptures. Lord Jesus Christ, please save me.

Your Friend,

Michael L. Hauenstein, Spec 4 USA (Ret)

[Dr Hauenstein went home to be with His Saviour on January 8, 1998. His fervent desire was that everyone who reads his story will also make Jesus Christ their personal Saviour and Lord.]