Bob tells the story of what happened that day, 17 June 1945, the Battle of Okinawa, as he and another Marine attempted to carry their wounded lieutenant from their burning tank:
"A bullet went through all three of us. It hit the first man in the chin and drilled a clean hole through the back of the lieutenant's neck, but missed his jugular vein and spine. Then it went through my neck and through my trigger finger.”Amazingly, Bob lived through that day, though he never was able to speak again above a husky whisper. But Christ had begun a good work in him, and Bob was not a man to wallow in misery or bitterness over his condition. Instead, he returned to Japan in 1952 as a missionary to his former enemies, where he and Jean served faithfully for 33 years. He later went on to publish three books: Unforgettable Men in Unforgettable Times, C-Rations for the Warrior's Heart, and Higher Honor.
"It knocked us all down, but didn't knock me out. It was like seeing light, black and then light again. As I began to try to pick myself off the ground - I still hadn't realized that I'd been hit – I saw blood all over my dungaree jacket and on my hand. Then I noticed I couldn't move just right, not the way I should be able to. The lieutenant was lying motionless beside me.”
"I looked up and saw the other two young fellows making their way back toward our lines and I tried to yell to them, "Help me," but nothing came out. I remember vividly opening my mouth to yell and I remember the looks on their faces filled with fear. It seemed like we locked eyes for a long time, but I'm sure it was just for a moment. They thought the lieutenant and I were done for, so made their way on. They were just kids, as we all were, but this was their first campaign."
"I thought about using [my pistol] with my left hand and then for the first time realized that I was having trouble breathing. Soon taking each breath was like what I imagined drowning to be. Then I figured out that this must be it. We used to talk about the bullet with your number on it. But I had become a Christian about 22 months before this, and a deep peace in Jesus Christ prevailed at this moment."
I didn't have the privilege of meeting Bob until 1995, and then only briefly, when he returned to Okinawa (where I was stationed) to pray over that place where he fell with a hole through his throat 50 years previously. As we stood with a small clutch of believers around Bob and Jean, we rendered him a salute to thank him for his service and his sacrifice, both for our country and for our Lord.
May this serve as one more salute before you go ahead of us, Bob. I look forward to hearing you sing in glory, dear saint. Well done, good and faithful servant!
Update: Bob Boardman went to be with Jesus on September 19th, 2009. Final tribute here.