When No One Cared
Starting on page 87 of Victories –
Stories of Christian Vietnam Veterans
It was September 1970 when I first touched ground in Vietnam. I didn’t know it then, but my life would be changed forever by the time I left.
I stepped off the plane to be greeted by the delirious heat, one hundred degrees with the humidity running in the high nineties on a daily basis. A thousand thoughts filled my head as they led us to the bus that would take us to Long Bin were we would be flown to a base in Vung Tau. After boarding the bus, I remembered what the stewardess had said about incoming mortar attacks. Looking out the bus window I noticed it was caged with a wire mesh. This was done to keep the Vietcong from throwing grenades and other explosives into the bus. It was then that I knew I was in a war zone.
As the bus rambled down the dirt road my mind began to drift back home. I thought of my mother and her last words to me. I told her I was going to Vietnam and it would mean everything to me if she would just say that she loved me. She told me that she couldn’t and that she would never love me. It was for that reason that I had left home the first time, having dropped out of school six months before graduation. I set my foot to the road searching for love and acceptance but it always eluded me.
I met many people along the way. Some preached freedom, peace and love, but few ever found it. We drank and smoked marijuana and talked about changing the world but it was just an ideological cop-out. Their lives were no more together than my own. They were always striving to make an impression, but when the dope and liquor ran out, so did these so-called friends. I zigzagged across the US, first west then east, ’till I ended up in Lansing Michigan. I moved in with a group of hippies and began to get deeply involved in the drug culture. One night after dinner a few of us gathered in a private room. An older man pulled out a stash of junk. One by one they began to shoot up. I had never done heroin before and when my turn came I got up and walked out. I took a good look at myself and did not like what I was becoming. A few days later I packed up and went home to Chicago. Fearing my draft notice would come in the mail, I enlisted. After entering the Army, I was given the task of maintaining our helicopter gun ships.
The chopper set down in Vung Tau. A putrid odor filled the air. The stench was a product of refuse in the streets combined with the heat and the unsanitary sewage system, which flowed freely in the open. We headed to the base and proceeded to settle in. The signs of destruction were evident in the barricaded houses and buildings riddled by gunfire. Orphans left homeless by the fighting begged in the streets. All over you could see civilians with missing arms and legs, crippled by the conflict. I saw a nation torn apart by war. It was reflective of my own life, my family broken by divorce and my soul longing for something to fill the emptiness. Wanting answers and finding none, I turned to the night.
During the daytime most of my hours were spent on base doing maintenance and repairs on the gun ships. On occasion, a pilot and I would take a chopper into the bush and make sure it was operating properly. Luckily we drew little gunfire from the VC on these runs. The only real action I saw was in Quang Tri Province when we came under rocket attacks.
When evening rolled around, I would head off base. Barhopping was my recreation, searching for a good drink and a smoke. I would spend my time in the company of the ladies of the evening. I could never understand why they lived the life they did.
My incursions into the night never brought satisfaction, only guilt and a deeper longing for real love, which I never found in my temporary solutions. One night, I hired a Lombretta, which is a three wheel motorized vehicle, to take me back to base. The driver turned out to be a VC cowboy. When he took a wrong turn and headed into no-man’s land, I knew I was about to be bush-waked. I opened the door and jumped out. I started running and didn’t stop until I found my way back to the base. The incident threw a scare into me that I didn’t soon forget. Shortly thereafter, Rich Collins paid me a visit.
Rich, a GI and a sincere Christian, spent most of his off hours working with some Christian missionaries. We began to see each other on a regular basis. He began to show me the love of God through the teachings of the Bible. He told me of the love of Jesus and His Sacrifice on the cross. Having grown up in a Lutheran home, I had head knowledge of God, but He seemed out of reach and detached from me. The more Rich shared Gods truth with me, the more I realized that I needed to pray and receive Jesus as my Savior. We prayed and I asked Christ into my heart. I felt a burden lifted off my shoulders and a new scene of optimism replaced the bouts of depression. I finally experienced the love I had been searching for.
My fondest memory of Vietnam was the Christmas I spent there. The Warrens were the missionaries who ran the Vung Tau Christian Center, a serviceman’s outreach. They had planned a Christmas service for the GIs and orphans they worked with, as well as others. The service was made up of Vietnamese, Filipinos, Australians, and Americans of every kind, all sharing in the unity that the Savior had given us. We sang songs together and rejoiced in the love and commonality of our Christian faith.
My search took me ten thousand miles from home; to a hostile country were no one cared. But even in the midst of all the darkness, the love of God found me. He touched me and filled the empty void within my soul as only He Could. You need not journey as far, for Jesus Christ is only a prayer away. He knocks at your hearts door and will come in if you ask Him. He will fulfill your every need and give you a perfect peace, a peace that passes all understanding.
Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”. Revelation 3:20
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13
This may be the best time in your life to open your hearts door and let in the one who truly loves you more than any other. Don’t wait any longer. You can pray right were you are. Don’t leave Jesus outside of your life. Let Him in today, you will never be the same.
Video journal that depicts Gods pursuit of me and all those who have been impacted by “War”/Life PTSd.
It is now more than 50 years since I found God’s grace and accepted His free gift of salvation. A lot has happened in those intervening years. All along the way God has demonstrated His faithfulness. Even during those times when I failed miserably He has remained true. He has constantly called me to higher ground and I can only thank Him for His steadfast love.
Since God saved me, the relationship between my mother and myself is much improved. I love her and visited her often while she was alive. I don’t deny the pain I felt those many years ago but accepted the love she was able to give. It is important to understand that the events of our life are not static. That those things that seem to crush us can be the very things God uses to draw us to Him. Divorce in my childhood, a dysfunctional family environment, War and other sin laden life issues served to point me toward God. It boils down to choices. Will we allow ourselves to become bitter and defeated or will we look to Jesus and allow Him to show us the way home.
Deut 30:15 says, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.” the choice is ours. We don’t have to deny the pain or try to act like life has no obstacles to overcome. The key is to seek God and choose His way so that we might find healing and life.
In the Bible Jesus tells us a story about a man who was attacked by robbers, beaten, stripped of his clothing and left for dead. Several saw him in his wounded condition and walked on by, insensitive to his need. Then comes someone we now call the Good Samaritan. Jesus said that this man was moved with tenderness and did what he could to restore the wounded man. Jesus points out the Samaritan as a true neighbor and tells us to do likewise.
Their are several comparisons we can see here. First, we see a man that was beat up by literal robbers. In a real sense all of us get beat up by life. Second, there were those that saw the wounded mans needs but did nothing for him. Unfortunately many people are aware of others who have experienced great pain but remain unconcerned, whose hearts are not moved to care. Finally we see one man who felt compassion for the broken person and reaches out to him. We all have the opportunity to help each other in a real way as we demonstrate love and understanding toward one another.
Foot Note: Jesus tells us what a good neighbor does because He expressed the greatest act of love by dying on the cross for us. He wants to heal our broken lives. If we let Him, we will experience Gods hand tenderly working to restore us.
Click here to read the stories of others who have discovered the power of God’s love.