HAUGHTON, La. (BP)–With his return from Iraq in 2003, U.S. Marine Cpl. Jermey Vickers of First Baptist Haughton became the fifth member of his family to carry the same New Testament to war and back.
The dog-eared New Testament, known as the family’s “War Bible,” wears a worn leather cover held together by tape.
Its six-decade journey through four wars began in the pocket of Wilton Borskey, 80, of Port Hudson Baptist in Port Hudson, La., who shipped off to the South Pacific as a Navy Seabee in 1944.
In 1968, Borskey gave it to his nephew, George M. “Butch” Borskey Jr., of Calvary Baptist in Thibodaux, La., who went to Vietnam.
At the uncle’s insistence, Butch Borskey promised to bring the Bible back and place it in Wilton Borskey’s hand.
Such was born a Southern Baptist family tradition with the Bible going to war four more times with the same result -– the man who carried it did come home.
Butch Borskey returned it to Wilton Borskey, who then gave it to his own son, Dave Borskey, of First Baptist, St. Francisville, La., for a 1969-1970 tour of duty in Vietnam.
Dave Borskey’s son, Dave Jr., took the Bible in 1991 to the Middle East for the Gulf War and Jermey Vickers, Wilton Borksey’s great-nephew, took it to Iraq in 2003.
Wilton Borskey, called “Uncle Buck” by the family, was drafted in May 1944, and got the Bible at boot camp in Camp Perry, Va.
“It was something I always kept with me,” Wilton said during an interview at his Port Hudson home. “It’s just good to have the Lord’s Word with you -– to know He’s there.”
Wilton Borskey operated heavy equipment, building roads and air strips in New Guinea, the East Indies and the Philippines. He often worked under enemy sniper fire and was awarded two Battle Stars.
Keeping the Bible dry in the rain-soaked jungles was challenging, he said, but he read it when he could, especially John, Chapter 3, where he folded back a corner of the page for easy reference.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” Wilton Borskey read aloud from the yellowed pages. “I already believed in the Lord. It was something I always had with me.”
BIBLE’S FIRST TOUR IN VIETNAM
George M. “Butch” Borskey Jr., 59, Wilton Borskey’s nephew, lives in Schriever, La., and works as a security guard at a power plant.
He joined the Navy as a corpsman, a medic, and served with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, in the rice paddies of Vietnam in 1968-1969.
“When I got ready to leave Uncle Buck gave the Bible to me and he asked only one thing -– that I bring it back and put it in his hand. I told him I would do my best,” Butch Borskey said.
Butch Borskey was wounded three times and sent home before his tour was over. “I’ve still got some shrapnel in me, and I’ve got some scars.”
He was awarded three Purple Hearts but declined to discuss his many other medals because “they are just something to hang on the wall.”
“I carried the Bible in the top pocket of my flak jacket every time I went out,” Butch Borskey said. “With my job I needed all the help I could get. The things I had to do sometimes … you just can’t do it on your own.”
Talking about Vietnam revives bad memories, he said, and he is not shy to admit that he, like thousands of other veterans, suffers post traumatic stress disorder. Counseling helps, he said, but “some things you never forget.”
“My faith helps and prayer always helps in any situation,” Butch Borskey said. “That’s the strong arm I have to lean on –- that gives you strength to take the next step -– if not, there won’t be a next step.”
SECOND TOUR TO VIETNAM
Wilton David Borskey Sr., 57, Wilton Borskey’s son, was drafted into the Army in 1968 and took the Bible on his 1969-1970 Vietnam tour of duty.
He was in four campaigns with the 4th Infantry Division’s E Company, driving trucks and operating heavy equipment while building fire bases — clearings in the jungle, usually elevated — where U.S. soldiers set up camps for heavy artillery.
“I was shot at, burned in a truck fire and lost (alone) in the jungle one night, but I wasn’t a hero,” Dave Borskey Sr., said. He was awarded one Bronze star, three Army commendation medals and a Vietnamese Cross for Gallantry.
Although he grew up attending church, “I didn’t know Christ as my Savior until the day I got home from Vietnam,” he said. “I read the Bible some (in Vietnam). It gave me hope when there was no hope. It gave me peace when there was no peace and it gave me sanity when there was no sanity. But I wondered, at times, where is God?”
The Bible also reminded him of his family, Dave Borskey said. “When I took it out of my pocket, I had part of my dad with me. It was reassuring to me.”
Dave Borskey Sr. said his faith is stronger now than it was in Vietnam, and he has some advice for veterans, who like himself and his cousin Butch, are haunted by memories.
“Memory is a terrible thing, and if you can’t deal with problems, turn to God,” Dave Borskey Sr. said. “God was there when it -– whatever it was –- was happening, and He is there now. Faith in Christ won’t take the fear away -– but it will help.”
DEPLOYING WITH DESERT STORM
The family tradition continued with Dave Borskey’s son, Dave Jr., who took the Bible in 1991 to Iraq for Operation Desert Storm.
Dave Borskey Jr. was in the Army’s 82nd Airborne, known as “the devils in baggy pants,” his father said. “I know he (Dave Jr.) was saved, but I don’t know if he ever read it.”
Dave Borskey Jr. survived the war, but was killed in an accident 11 years ago. His father still can’t talk about that. “His favorite song was ‘I’ll Fly Away,’ ” the father said.
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM
Jermey Vickers, 30, Wilton’s great-nephew, lives near Shreveport, La., and is an Air Force Reserve technician who maintains B-52 bombers at Barksdale Air Force Base. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1995 and served until 2004, then joined the Air Force.
His awards include a Presidential Unit Citation, a letter of commendation and other ribbons and medals.
While he was driving trucks for the 6th Motor Transport Battalion in 2003, “I kept it on my person at all times,” Vickers said. “Most of the time it was in my left breast pocket.”
Vickers said he never took the Bible out of its plastic bag. “It was in pretty bad shape, so I got a new Bible to read, but I admit I didn’t read it as much as I should have,” he said.
“I am a Christian, I have been baptized and raised in a Christian family, but when I went into the Marines I let my faith kinda’ go to the side,” Vickers said. “Before I went into the combat zone, I did pray and ask God to watch over my family.”
God was also watching over him, Vickers said. “Several times I dug bullets out of my truck and some of them, if they were an inch in another direction, would have been in me.”
Vickers’ faith was renewed soon after he got a call that his wife, Amanda, was having complications with her first pregnancy. It took Marine and Red Cross officials two weeks to track him down in Iraq, “a miracle in itself because we were always on the move,” Vickers said. He flew home and Adrienne, now 3, was born healthy and normal. “I knew the Lord was watching out for me.”
After Adrienne’s birth Vickers realized he had a responsibility to his growing family. When his Marine enlistment expired he joined the Air Force, had another child, Ella, 10 months, and “has gotten back into church.”
Vickers said he appreciates the family’s War Bible and was glad to be able to return it to his Uncle Buck. “It means a lot to our family.
“It’s a lot of pride and honor. It’s a serious thing!”
— Reprinted with permission from the author and from The Advocate of Baton Rouge, La.