Robert Foley had already served in the Navy for one deployment to Vietnam in 1968 when he felt a strange premonition that he would not survive the next. He had just learned that a neighbor had lost his life in Vietnam and his new wife was pregnant with their first child. Still, he kept his commitment and boarded a ship.
Just weeks after leaving the states there was an accident on the flight deck. A heat-seeking missile was accidentally launched and hit a squadron of planes on the deck, fully loaded with fuel, napalm, missiles and bombs, setting off a chain reaction.
The crew was ordered to their battle stations and Bob rushed to his—100 feet below water level. All of the compartments below water were sealed off in case one compartment filled with water. Bob knew the men in each compartment would be sacrificed as necessary to keep the ship from sinking.
“As each water-tight door was closed behind me as I made my way down into the engine room, I was convinced my premonition was coming true and I would never see the light of day again, nor my wife or child,” Bob said.
It took all day for the fires to be extinguished and 400 people lost their lives but Bob survived.
“I determined that I needed to live a life of service to those who need help as a sort of payback for having survived,” he said. “I try to live each day since then as if it is my last and at the same time as if it is the first day of a really long life.”
Bob went on to have a 33-year career as a teacher and school counselor. He has volunteered with his church, his veteran’s group and as a firefighter. Since retiring, Bob spends two days a week helping veterans and one day a week at Child Crisis Arizona spending time with the “Middlers” in the Emergency Children’s Shelter.
“Seeing those faces light up when I walk in, receiving those heartfelt hugs and just spending time with them, trying to make each of them feel as if they individually were the only reason I was there, is so rewarding,” he said. “It helps me live my life fulfilling my goal of giving back for all that has been given to me. At the end of the movie ‘Platoon’, the main character says ‘We owe it to those who didn’t survive to teach others what we know and to use what’s left of our lives to find some goodness, some meaning to this life.’ That’s my goal!”
“I determined that I needed to live a life of service to those who need help as a sort of payback for having survived”