Joel Lee Russell: Marine Combat Survivor, Author, Man of Faith

Combat Marine Stared Death in Face in Vietnam And Lived to Write a Book

BONNEY LAKE, WASHINGTON — A lot of soldiers face death in a foxhole and make promises to God about what they would do if their life was spared. But when Marine Joel Lee Russell was introduced to death in Vietnam and made a promise, he kept that promise after returning home – by writing a book.

The story of Russell's near-mortal wound and journey of faith that followed is told in Escaping Death's Sting: A Combat Marine's Life Story (ISBN: 978-1-60911-019-2, published 2010 Strategic Book Group, 320 pages, $28.50).

Near-death was not the only sting faced by Russell in his life. At age 4 he was nearly crushed to death, and at age 10 was brutally raped and threatened with death. As a new Marine he was framed and spent time in custody, delaying his completion of boot camp.

After arriving in Vietnam, Russell's unit faced heavy enemy fire and went from 250 men to 79 in less than four hours.  Russell made a promise to return to God if his life was spared. Later, during a "burning bush" encounter with God in 1993 Russell was commanded by God to share his spiritual testimony in a book – published this year as Escaping Death's Sting.

"God kept His part of the deal and expected me to keep mine, but it did take awhile," says Russell. "The heavenly visitation in 1993, that I call my 'burning bush' experience, was so real to me that it absolutely changed my life. When I awoke, my sheets were wet from sweat because of all the weeping and wailing I had done. I was so awed – I'm sure as much as Moses was."

After returning from Vietnam, Russell suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the disappointment felt by all Vietnam returnees about the lack of a welcome home by Americans. For years Russell suffered from delusions, was alarmed by firecrackers or fireworks, had trouble sleeping, and suffered from flashbacks.

"Nam had forever changed me," says Russell. "The biggest change in me was that now I was hardened inside. I had to be this way to survive. People had been getting blown away all around me, and other guys were going insane. I kept pushing what I saw and experienced deep down inside of me."

In 1997 Russell wrote his biography, Book of Joel Book II, and in 2009 wrote a semi-fiction book called Angels Under Fire which is about the Second Coming of Jesus. But Escaping Death's Sting is the book Russell feels God wanted him to write.