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January 1971. Vietnam. U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Mike Beggs ’68 accidentally triggers a landmine while leading his troops through enemy fire. Temporarily blinded and paralyzed from the waist down, he has only one hope for salvation: the “Jungle Penetrator.”

In a touching email exchange nearly four decades after his rescue, Mike Beggs ’68 (pictured) found out that his savior was former classmate and friend Charlie Rodenberg ’68.

Shaped like an anchor and suspended from a helicopter, the Jungle Penetrator is a tool designed to raise wounded soldiers out of the dense forest, but there’s a catch: Its use was recently prohibited due to the risk of the line snapping or becoming ensnared in the jungle’s thick canopy. Upon realizing the extent of Beggs’ injuries, however, a Marine pilot with call sign Peachbush 1-7 defies orders and flies out to rescue him.

Disoriented and battered, Beggs only recalls hearing his savior’s reassuring words, “You’re going to be okay,” before losing consciousness. When he finally awakens in the safety of a hospital, he is overwhelmed with relief to discover he can see again and feel his legs once more.

Nearly four decades after that miraculous rescue, during an email exchange with his fellow Corps of Cadets buddies in Squadron 1 marking the passing of renowned helicopter pilot and Medal of Honor recipient Ed Freeman, Beggs recounts his own war experience and writes: “God bless Ed Freeman and all helicopter pilots like him. I owe my life to a helicopter pilot who did what was needed rather than what was permissible. I don’t know who he was, but his call sign was Peachbush 1-7.”

Ten minutes later, Charlie Rodenberg ’68, a classmate and fellow Huslin’ 1 buddy, responds simply, “Mike, Peachbush 1-7 was yours truly. Semper Fi, Charlie.”

While Mike survived his wounds, he ultimately had to retire from the Marine Corps as a captain. He passed away in August 2023, but he was honored to speak at Charlie’s funeral in 2011, where he paid tribute to his friend’s unwavering character and thanked him one last time.

You can read Mike's original account of his rescue in "Texas Aggies in Vietnam," a book published by Michael Lee Lanning '68 through Texas A&M University Press.

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