Death called more than a dozen times, but this Marine didn’t answer

COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — Even the author of “A Few Good Angels” didn’t initially believe the luck connected to how he survived more than a dozen brushes with death.

As the Vietnam War was erupting in 1966, Michael Montigny was a teenager in West Warwick, into baseball and hot rods.

But he would soon be in a Marine Corp boot camp, face to face with a Gunnery Sergeant who let him know how dangerous it was to be the trigger behind a machine gun.

“He was right in my face,” Montigny recalled. “He says life expectancy of a machine gunner is 15 minutes, and I couldn’t swallow. I said, Oh my god.”

Before he found out just how accurate the sergeant was, Montigny was picked out of a crowd of Marines heading into Vietnam by a Marine who was going home.

“He fights his way through 200 of us, comes up to me and takes the ring off his finger,” Montigny said. “He puts it right in my face and says here. This brought me luck and protected me. It’s going to protect you.”

He didn’t believe that, and he didn’t believe the Chaplain who also picked him out of a crowd to give him a set of rosary beads, saying again they would save his life.

“I was 19 years old,” he recalled. “I don’t believe a ring or a set of rosary beads are going to save my life. But my life was saved at least 12 times in Vietnam and twice at Camp Lejeune.”

There were last-second discoveries of booby traps and grenades that seemingly had his name on them and too many other near hits.

“I never thought I was coming home,” he said.

Montigny sat on the stories for about 40 years but was finally convinced to write them down after hearing more than once that it seemed as though a guardian angel with him during the war.

A Few Good Angels has sold pretty well so far, but one unexpected impact involves war protesters who bellowed at Montigny when he came home 50 years ago.

His words have changed their tone.

“They come up to me and apologize,” Montigny said. “And some of them had tears in their eyes and said I had no idea.”

Send your story ideas to Walt at and follow us on Twitter:@StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.