Magister Neil Bernard Smith, Army Intelligence

Memorial Day: Reflections from a Satanist Who Served during the Vietnam War

This is the day we remember and honor the men and women who gave their lives for the cause of a free country and hopefully for more of a free world.

As a Satanist, I proudly remember my time in the US Army. I was never a “gung-ho” hawk, but I felt it was right to do whatever small part I could for the country that had afforded my grandparents and those of so many others, the opportunity to make a better and more successful life.

As a veteran, I still retain a sense of pride for having been part of a greater whole. Myself, I was never really in harm’s way, although even those of us who were in office functions during the Vietnam era—like mine as a translator of Chinese texts—knew in the back of our minds that things could change at a minute’s notice. An unexpected surprise, like another Pearl Harbor, could have landed any of us in a muddy, disease-ridden trench. Unlikely, perhaps, but not impossible.

I remember friends from my training days who didn’t make it. Painful memories I’ve never shared before. Dave the Bear, who used to ride me around Monterey on his motorcycle. His surveillance shed was ambushed. Andrew, who was very smart and the quietest man in the world, volunteered for a dangerous secret mission. That mission was a success and very helpful, but nobody came back.

Please join me in remembering them today, along with the thousands of others who made the ultimate sacrifice.

—Magister Neil Bernard Smith