I realize I am risking overstating the case for Vietnam Veterans, but I just can’t leave this story alone. I am catching up with too much I missed and thinking there must be others like me who might benefit from what I am learning. I’m not sure why this has such a hold on me, but let me try a few reasons.
1) I have always been troubled by the seemingly random nature by which people were picked to go to Vietnam. You received a draft number between 1 and 366. If your number was low (under 100), you were most likely called. Over 200, most likely not. It seemed like such a slim margin between life and death — like playing the lottery for heaven or hell — heaven, being of course an exaggeration for the normal life of a teenager in America, but hell was no exaggeration for what we were hearing and seeing in the news about the war in Vietnam.
2) But the incongruity between there and here was impossible to grasp. That someone I went to Sunday School and church with could be sloshing through a mosquito-infested jungle with rifle ready for whatever he might encounter without warning, while I was leading a normal life in a college dormitory is incomprehensible.
3) And why? Why? Why? That was the worst part. In World War II, the whole country was behind their soldiers. Everybody was in the war. While the men fought, the women rolled up their sleeves and ran everything back home. Whereas with Vietnam, few knew what was happening, fewer still were clear on why we were there in the first place. Which meant we were struggling with the legitimacy of the whole thing. If you give your life over there, what are you giving it for? What are you accomplishing? It wasn’t even our war; it was someone else’s war. And when you came home no one cared. I certainly didn’t. It’s taken all these years for me to connect with what really went on.
4) This is where I admire Tim so much. Tim didn’t wait to be drafted; he enlisted. He wanted to serve his country. In his mind, he was fighting worldwide communism which would take people’s freedoms away from them. Even more specifically, Tim was fighting to uphold religious freedom. Not just freedom to be a Christian, like many Christians today think, but freedom of religion for everybody— to worship God however you please. Freedom, as Os Guinness says, for all religions and none. And Tim kept that perspective all the way through his tour in Vietnam. He never lost sight of the big picture.
5) But Tim says he came home to indifference. I think in spite of that, he came home a hero if only in his own mind, and certainly in our minds today. He stayed true to his mission. He served his country well.
But the religious freedom he fought for in Vietnam remains unsupported by the current communist government there. There are state controlled Christian churches in the larger cities, but they are so steeped in tradition that they are relatively harmless. It’s a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit that the small churches and meetings forming in people’s homes in the small villages of the hill country continue to be the most feared by the government. This is where Jesus is alive and well and the gospel is spreading. Many believers have been put in prison, but nothing can stop the work of the Holy Spirit. Pray for these believers.
What does all this mean to you and me? Start with gratitude. Be thankful to Tim and others who served their country and put themselves in harm’s way for something bigger than themselves. And be thankful for the freedoms you have if indeed you live in a country that allows those freedoms. And secondly, what are you living for? What would you be willing to die for?
To be sure, it’s been hard being back. Tim will be the first to tell you he’s messed up a lot since then. He lost a slew of years to alcohol. It was the only way he could sleep. He’s had little or no counseling. They didn’t know about PTSD back then. If they did, they didn’t have anything or anyone in place to deal with it. Nevertheless, Tim claims that God has helped him heal. If you press him, he will talk about his war experiences, but he will tell you he prefers to talk about his Savior.
There’s probably a Vietnam veteran within walking distance of you right now. Be on the lookout. Keep your eyes wide open for people like Tim. And when you find one, thank them for serving their country, and be sure and welcome them back.
Don’t miss our BlogTalkRadio interview with Tim Lickness.
Thanks for more about Vietnam. Well, its always been about Jesus no matter whether in the jungles of a place that is pretty close to hell or on a college campus, home, church, or restaurant its all about following Jesus. Take care, God Bless, and have a great weekend.
Big Amen: “… its all about following Jesus.”
This has all put me in mind of a man I met at one of the missions in Vancouver. His name was Rudy, and one evening, as we were serving dinner, he sat beside me and mentioned (I don’t know how we got to the topic) that he had been in Vietnam. I had never knowingly met a Vietnam vet before, so I had to ask, “What was that like?” Over the next 20 minutes, he told me his story.
The main thing was, he was on a manoeuvre when his unit was ambushed. In less than a minute, he was the only one left alive, and the Viet Cong disappeared into the jungle. When Rudy finally got up, he found he was standing, about 20 feet away, from one of the VC. “If he goes for his gun,” Rudy told me he thought, “I’m dead.” But instead, “Charlie Cong”, as Rudy called him, held up two fingers.
“I thought he was giving me the ‘peace’ sign, so I held up two fingers to him. Then I realized he was asking for a cigarette.” They sat and smoked and “talked” with sign language. “Charlie” showed Rudy pictures of his wife and children. When they finished their smokes, “Charlie” disappeared into the jungle and Rudy returned to his unit. He told his commanding officer, “I can’t kill these guys”. He was medicaled out the next day,
But when he returned to the States, he couldn’t adapt. Like Tim, he got no “welcome” and was totally confused by the experience. He couldn’t get used to the walls of indoor living and eventually became one of the “rubber tramps”, living in vans just off I-5 in Tacoma. Finally, he made his way to Vancouver, hooked on crack and unable to do much.
About a week after we talked, he told me he was able to get into detox, hoping to recover from the addiction. He asked me to pray over him, which I did. The last I heard from him was a voice mail he left me, that he was in the detox centre and “doing OK”. A couple of days later, I called the centre, but was told they couldn’t give out any information. No idea what happened to him since.
It’s wonderful to read about Tim and his story of relying on God through his troubles. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that there are a lot of “Rudy”s, too, who are still wondering where God has been all their lives.
Wow, drew what a moving story God’s speed to Rudy and all of them in the same shoes!
PS I once told this story here, back when I was a newer believer the Pastor mentioned in his Sunday morning service said if you see a vet. please don’t look the other way, yet go up look him or her in the eyes and thank them for their service to our Country .
Sure enough after the Church Services I need to stop bye this Shopping Mall & while walking to where I needed to go, I see this elderly gentleman in his full dresses Military outfit, so I walked up to to him and said I’d like to thank you sir for your service to our Country and I’ll NEVER forget he stood up and very firmly shock my hand and said thank-you I needed to hear that – it was so cool and it was once of those moments where I so easily felt the pretense of Jesus!
Thank you, Drew, for sharing this story.
Risk overstating the case for Vietnam Veterans!!
Tim and Rudy and their battle buddies risked everything themselves.
Isn’t it now our duty to risk overstating their case?
Especially when their external wounds have largely been glossed over by a dispassionate bureaucracy?
And their internal wounds – called shellshock before the term PTSD – were largely expected over time to “man up,” go away, and heal themselves?
And too many having been discharged to unprepared loved ones or ill-equipped communities who couldn’t possibly fathom the horrors they witnessed first-hand?
And then, so many discarded and left to care for themselves – to “self-medicate” – in the streets of Tacoma, Portland, LA, Denver, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, DC, Miami, Dallas, Albuquerque, San Diego, Honolulu…?
Such a homecoming, such a welcome, such, such an outpouring of “meh.”
Yes, overstate the case for Vietnam Veterans and all those who put their lives on the line as their service to you and me.
They’ve experienced enough conflict.
Let’s never let the apathy or hostility toward them happen again.
May God bless our Veterans wherever they find themselves and at whatever stage of life they’re leaving or entering.
Welcome home and thank you for your service!
My you (and all of us) truly know and embrace Shalom, Peace…
my father-in-law came home to Britain once WW II was over. All veterans couldn’t wait to get home, it was their most powerful motivation to see family and friends. The government took advantage of that. They asked each veteran if they needed any kind of future help. They all said they just wanted to get home. No one told them if they did not state their case right then, that not a penny would come their way for any kind of war injuries and mental health conditions.
My mother and aunt both suffered from PTSD and they were not even soldiers, just housewives. My mom suffered from anxiety attacks and even had a nervous breakdown. My aunt was subject to live in an area where there was relentless bombing and she had a baby at the time. For the last 25 years of her life she lay depressed and undiagnosed in an old age home hospital bed.
What governments have done since time began is given lip service to veterans and their service, if that. Looking after those veterans is a whole other matter. It is best to call it one of the tragedies of the modern world.
Actually, I think politicians somehow do not want to know the tragedies of war in every respect, because then they would have no reason to wage war at all.
Completely agree w/ you peter leenheer in this:
As you wrote: “Actually, I think politicians somehow do not want to know the tragedies of war in every respect, because then they would have no reason to wage war at all.” Amen b/c as I learned Dr. Nathan in his Philosophy class: “All War is Political!”
So sorry about your Mom & Aunt’s suffering…. 😦