I have a friend who was in my high school youth group at church who ended up fighting in direct combat in Vietnam while I was studying sociology in college. My biggest conflict was whether to stay true to the high school sweetheart back home or try out a new relationship while I was away. His biggest conflict was whether he could stay alive for another day.
I was 1,500 miles away from home. He was 8,000 miles away across the Pacific Ocean. On his worst day, his squad was ambushed by Viet Cong. They didn’t stand a chance. It was over so fast that all eight of his squad members were killed. Miraculously, Tim was spared. The last man died in his arms. I often imagine him holding this man, rocking him, and crying, if indeed tears could come, and wondering what one earth he was doing there. I bet he thinks about it still every day. How could you forget?
Tim was a true patriot. Unlike most of his comrades who were drafted out of high school — most of them not wanting to go — Tim had enlisted. He went with a pure heart to serve his country. He managed to maintain that attitude, though many of his fellow soldiers became disillusioned by the war and came home (if they were lucky to come home alive) not as heroes, but as those who were utterly confused about what had happened to them.
But this has been a special week for Vietnam veterans. Yesterday was Vietnam Veterans Day marking fifty years since the last combat troops came home. Next week, April 4-9, the “moving wall” — a three-quarter size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. naming the 58,220 who gave their lives in that conflict — is coming to southern California, and Tim will be speaking at the event. It’s called “The Wall That Heals.”
The country was so conflicted over this war that few came home as heroes. But it’s not too late to treat them as such.
Tim Lickness was an airborne infantry platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam in 1968. The moving wall will be displayed in Menifee, California.
Tim Lickness is my personal hero.
I understand, Dan. That’s beautiful. Thanks for commenting.
There are approximately 6 million living veterans from the Vietnam era – more than 30% of America’s veteran population.
Despite our politics at the time or our understanding of the war through the lens of history, we still owe these men and women a large debt of gratitude – an honor and distinction they were largely denied when they stepped back onto American soil.
They left one conflict eight thousand miles away with an enemy shooting bullets at them only to enter another conflict where local “friendly’s” were firing barbs of insults at them from across the street.
This is certainly not what they envisioned when, similar to Tim’s experience, they were hunkered down in a foxhole surrounded by dead and dying as barrages of bullets and grenades rained down on them.
They weren’t even thinking of a hero’s homecoming at that moment. They just wanted to come home – alive.
Yet, when those souls arrived home – a place that normally provides love, acceptance and security – they were not welcomed with open arms. They were met with scorn and ridicule.
Please forgive us, Veterans, for our shameful behavior and attitudes toward you.
We’ve heard of the post-war/post-peace traumas many of you have endured (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social), and many of you have justifiably responded with your own personal disdain toward anything to do with the war as well as the receptions you did or did not receive.
Please forgive us, Veterans, for our insensitivity toward your internal plights and continued suffering.
And even though you may not seek it, please accept as a sort of peace offering the gratitude due you from those who lived in the same era as well as those who came after – your children, grandchildren and their children down the road – who really didn’t recognize or appreciate your sacrifices and the blessed fact that you survived.
With all of my heart along with, I hope, the sincere hearts of others:
THANK YOU Vietnam Veterans (and all other war Veterans, too)!!!
With all of my heart I pray that you, we, and this old world truly find:
Like to add an Amen to this: “Please forgive us, Veterans, for our insensitivity toward your internal plights and continued suffering.”
Thanks so much for this story. Following Jesus is the best and especially remembering those who made the sacrifice and in this campaign which was controversial never forget the ones who served. My Dad was at a base in Thailand in 1968 on a remote as a Air Force Master Sgt working on planes going into Vietnam. I was a child but, I will never forget and thanks for mentioning our beloved Vietnam Vets. Take care, God Bless, and have a great weekend.
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