Captain Donald B. Smallwood passed to his Mansion in the sky on March 10, 2019. He will be sorely missed.
If you’re interested in reading how God orchestrates our lives...read on.
Captain Donald B. Smallwood was my husband's captain when he was in Viet Nam in 1968 (although he was not my husband at the time). Reports indicate they were on a Search and Destroy Operation called Pikes Peak 1 when they engaged the enemy in a very bad fire fight. Afterward the men all backed off to what they thought would be a safe distance. Unfortunately this is when the defective short round from friendly fire landed in their perimeter. Records state there were three killed and 12 wounded.
I have a letter written to Gene by Captain Smallwood in September of 2000. I'm quoting...
It always makes me feel great when you and Carol come to the 5th Infantry Division reunion each year. Gene, I
think highly of you, both as a man and a friend. I have long admired you for being so brave, calm and collected on the night you were so severely wounded. I firmly believe that a lesser man would have given up hope and died. I heard you calling me, and I went to you and knelt on my knees. You were silently crying, and you asked me, "Sir, no one else will tell me the truth, but I know you will. Am I going to make it?" I actually believed you would die any moment, but I hugged you and replied, "Yes, Sargent Greenberg, you are going to make it." At that moment, you relaxed, and you were an inspiration to all of your fellow soldiers, Gene. It was hours before a MED-EVAC chopper came, and you talked to everyone and encouraged the other wounded men by your cheerful, confident attitude. There were many other wounded. Gene, you can stand tall no matter where you are, because you are a very tall man among men. Throughout the long years, I never forgot you or your name. I used to tell everyone about you, because I was so proud of you. One day my phone rang and it was Dennis Knight asking, "Is this the Captain Smallwood who commanded Delta Company, 1st Bn, 11th Inf. in Vietnam? I was so stunned after 25 years of not hearing from anyone, that I cried. One of the first things I asked Dennis was, "have you found Sergeant Eugene Greenberg?" He hadn't found you, but it wasn't long after he did."
It was at that time that Captain told me the rest of the story which you read in his quote, stating he did not believe what he was telling Gene, but God used those words of encouragement to keep Gene grounded and stoked his passion and determination to live.
Late summer 2019, I get a text from Captain stating:
“Carol, Eugene was one of my favorite NCO’s. I was impressed by his will to live. Many men would not have coped with what he did. I am aware that you played a large role in helping him, I’m glad you did.”
He said, “I bet you took really good care of Gene. I bet there isn’t another fifth division wife that would do for me what you are doing.”
I responded, “There isn’t another 5th Division wife that has the bond I have with you since you are the reason my husband came home.”
Captain stated, “You don’t owe me anything.”
I responded, “I never said I did, so don’t put words in my mouth”
“Okay," he replied, as he smiled at me.
We talked about heaven, and what it might be like when he arrived and leaving this world and the pain behind. We wondered if he might possibly have any recollection of what is going on down here. But I suggested that if there was a chance, “Would you please tell Gene I said, hi.”
He smiled and replied, “You bet I will!”
After about 20-30 minutes of music, and massage, and pain meds, his pain level reduced to
a one and we settled in for the night. I listened as he talked in his sleep, thinking he was trying to get my attention and needed something. Then I heard him laugh. I finally realized he wasn’t needing anything, but he was sleeping well. It was a God-given time to minister to him as he was so faithful to give of himself for his men and his country, particularly the deciding factor that instilled in Gene the courage to continue fighting for his next breath, the reason that chopper came in to get him, and the reason he came home.
The next day as Hospice made preparations to transport him home, I rode in the van with him to begin his ascent into heaven. I stayed with him for the next three days and nights administering medications to him every two hours. My presence and this service of love during this time alleviated his sisters from having to administer his medications to him which would have been very difficult for them. I sat/dozed in a recliner or on the couch, next to his bed every night. During the night Saturday I paid close attention listening a little harder, as I sensed his breathing was changing. About 6:00 I began watching him closely. His next dose of meds was scheduled at 6:20. His sister brought them in for me to administer and I indicated we would not need them. I awakened his younger son and both sons, his sister and I watched him closely. We were all there when he drew his last two breaths. What a privilege to be with him when he took those last two breaths about 6:30 a.m. and the angels transported him to his heavenly home to receive his reward. I wonder if he told my prince, “Your princess said to tell you ‘Hi?’”
What an honor and a privilege. Only a God who loves and is overseeing our lives could orchestrate an event like this. If I had gone earlier as we had originally planned I would not have been with him those last four days. I would not have been there for sisters Abby and Sarah. I would not have been there for his daughter as I helped her say goodbye to her daddy. He was with my husband on the darkest night of his soul, and Captain, along with God’s orchestration, was the reason my husband continued to fight to live and draw his next breath December 3, 1968, returning home to his family. He met and married me and continued to live the life God planned for him. We logged in 36 years of marriage. We had some major difficult times, but I believe we discovered, by God's grace, what He meant marriage to be this side of heaven. One of the greatest struggles for soldiers is survivor’s guilt. Upon returning home they all ask why they lived and their buddies did not. Gene struggled with this as much as anyone. However, once again, God healed his heart. As God continued to work in his life, at one point Gene told me, “Carol, I now know exactly why I came home from Viet Nam. It is to help others find their way back to God.” Isn’t that a miracle of healing? And indeed he did just that.
God did certainly do a miraculous work in Gene’s life, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I have all of his medical records from the time he was transported to the Repose in a 4 ½ x 8 ½ x 11” box. Gene had multiple shrapnel injuries. According to these records, his wounds consisted of: a traumatic left leg amputation above the knee, left elbow was an open fracture, with massive tissue loss, and shrapnel wounds of the ulna, and radius, left radial nerve damage and artery involvement. There is marked deformity of the semilunar notch of the ulna. There is incomplete bony union at the radial and ulnar fracture sites, shrapnel wounds to the left flank, and right arm and inguinal region. They specifically state, “Left leg did not accompany patient to hospital.” Gene told me doctors wanted to amputate his left arm telling him he would never be able to use it. Gene says he refused to accept that prognosis; thus, they placed pins in his elbow and he remained in traction for about 6 weeks, and grafted skin from his right thigh. It took a while, but God healed Gene from his PTSD and he not only survived, but he thrived. Years later, doctors would marvel at how much use he actually gained in his left arm. He worked very hard to get it functional. This is another tribute to the type of man Captain identified in him. He was a hero, but more importantly he was my hero.
Fast forward March 10, 2019, and I am with Captain Smallwood as he takes his last two breaths, 6:30 am, as the angels transport him into the presence of his Savior. It seemed to be a complete Circle of Life. Captain dispensing courage to Gene on a battlefield in a foreign land, and I stand with him as he is ushered from this spiritual battle field into his heavenly home. What a privilege and an honor to take care of the man who took care of my husband. All of us were exactly where God orchestrated us to be. He does do all things well all for our greater good and His glory.
I spent time with his family and his sisters and I emotionally bonded with them during this most difficult time. It was all God ordained. I stand and marvel in awe at how well God orchestrates our lives, if we are willing to listen and step where he leads.
So might I ask you, where is he leading? What is he telling you? He is speaking, but the question might be, are you placing yourself in a quiet enough place that you can hear that still small voice. It is only through solitude, quietness, and stillness that God speaks. Are you listening? He created us in His image, in love, for love, and to be loved, and to bring him glory. Are you finding your way back to Him, so you can help others do the same? Gene Greenberg and Captain Donald B. Smallwood completed their mission here on this earth and he and his Captain are enjoying their reward together. And one day I will be united with my Prince. In the meantime I serve the Prince of Peace, Jesus.