[Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series of exclusive SOFREP stories of what led to the MACV-SOG Bright Light mission that haunts SOG Green Beret SSG James H. Shorten (Jones) to this day. It has taken him back to Cambodia twice. He hopes to return to Cambodia in 2018 to help DPAA officials locate and return two Air Force pilots, 1st Lt. Eric James Huberth and Capt. Alan Robert Trent, that he and his recon team tried unsuccessfully to find after their F-4D jet crashed May 14, 1970 on a bombing mission.
Read here: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, and part six.]

Imagine being 70 years old and humping up and down steep mountains in Cambodia.

Imagine being 70, fighting jungle heat, exhaustion and Southeast Asian horizontal downpours.

Imagine being 70 and still haunted by images of communist North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers trying to kill you in the jungles during a top-secret SOG mission run in 1970 across the fence in Cambodia.

Imagine being 70 and still haunted 47 years later by images of an Air Force F-4D jet that crashed in the Cambodian jungle, and your failure to find, identify and return the remains of 1st Lt. Eric James Huberth and Capt. Alan Robert Trent.

Welcome to the swirling, vivid, seldom-resting mind of James H. Shorten (Jones), the team leader of SOG Recon Team Delaware that attempted to get to the downed Air Force officers in May 1970 in northern Cambodia, but was driven back by hordes of NVA soldiers leaving Shorten and his fearless recon team a choice:

Die fighting driven communists or leave and try to return another day. His 1970 decision to exit Cambodia under withering fire triggered years of haunting memories and guilt trips about the extenuating circumstances that unfolded 47 years ago that prevented RT Delaware from completing its mission.

In 2002, after renegade bandits ran Shorten and his small band of paid volunteers from the crash site, he returned to Arizona intent on enjoying life more, working less and flying his airplane while launching into a new challenge: hunting meteorites, finding them and, where possible, cutting and polishing them for sale. “I began learning about meteorites,” Shorten said. “They fascinated me. The more I learned about them the more I got into finding them and eventually selling them on E-Bay.” At the same time he also went back to repairing and rebuilding old cars like Ford Model T’s, first as a hobby, then as a small collector. In a word, he was always busy and trying to enjoy life.