I found this old newspaper clipping. The picture was taken a few days after I returned from Vietnam. In the photo, I still haven’t quite lost the “thousand yard stare”. It was such a strange experience, one day being out in the field with a combat battalion, then 30 hours later being home. Back then, there were no orientation classes for returning soldiers and their families. The only returning orientation you got was the warning, “Watch yourself, there are people who may spit on you.” There were so many violent protests going on, we were afraid we might be fighting in the streets. I love this picture because it shows my beautiful, strong, young wife who waited for me to return. She’s the brave one who deserves the medals.
It was this time in November of 1967 that I left for Vietnam. I was not quite 22 years old. I will never forget saying goodbye to everyone. One of the last nights before I left I went back to the school I had attended to see friends for the last time. The school was the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My father was a professor there. In one of the buildings, there is a well-known architectural feature called the Arch. It was night. I was about to leave and I was standing in the Arch. No one was with me. The feeling in the pit of my stomach was not good. I was going into the unknown in a way that I never had in my life. I knew no one in Vietnam and I didn’t know where I would be assigned. What I did know was that infantry Second Lieutenants, rifle platoon leaders, which I had been trained to be, were having a high casualty rate in combat. Would I ever come home? I didn’t know.
But there’s something else that I did know. My faith was in Jesus Christ as it is today. So there in the Arch, I prayed. Suddenly, over me came an amazing certainty and a great peace that could only come from God. Yes, I would come home and I would stand in this place once more. A year later, after many difficult days, so it was. The week I returned, one of the deans of the school, Dick Mohline, asked me to speak to the student body in the morning chapel service. This I did in uniform. It was not a long speech. When it was over, everyone stood up to leave. My wife was sitting with a great friend, one of the professors, Dr. Fred Dickason. He turned to Carel and said, “Let’s clap for him.” That just never happened in one of those services. They started clapping and in a moment all 1200 people were clapping. So many young, Vietnam soldiers faced rejection even from their families when they returned. There were no parades for them. That morning was my “parade” and it was a gift from God for which I will always be grateful.
Happy Veterans Day to all my brothers and sisters in arms who have carried the battle. May God’s peace be with you.