Larkin Spivey Finding Faith In War

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book Award

I just received notice that Stories of Faith and Courage from the Vietnam War has won a Gold Medal in the Stars and Flags Books Awards. Also, Miracles of the American Revolution has received Honorable Mention. The awards and book cover images are on display at Thanks to my great publisher and many good editors for making this possible.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


During a radio interview today on WHKW in Cleveland, the host, Glenn Mertz, asked me what I, a Vietnam veteran, thought about the current conflicts in the Middle East. The question took me back to September 11, 2001, the day of the most cowardly attack ever perpetrated against America (in my opinion, even surpassing Pearl Harbor). As my thoughts went back to that day, I was overtaken by the feelings of anger and frustration that came over me and so many others. This declaration of war against our nation required a response. I think I can speak for the vast majority of military men and women, past and present, in expressing the profound belief that such a war needed to be fought on the ground of our enemies, not our own. I think this feeling prevails in spite of the hardship endured by our service men and women during repeated deployments and constant danger. Our modern warriors have been placed under the greatest strain imaginable. Many have paid a high price. We as a nation are blessed that young men and women are still found willing to step forward and pay this price. God bless our people in uniform, and God bless America.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

No Stained Glass Windows

Early in the Vietnam War Lieutenant Ronald DeBock was assigned as one of the first chaplains to the field hospital run by Company C, 3rd Medical Battalion, known throughout I Corps as ‘Charlie Med.’ He made it his duty to meet jeep and helicopter ambulances day and night to be one of the first to offer comfort to the casualties as they arrived. He often stayed with the seriously wounded in the operating room and followed up with frequent visits to the wards, bringing reading material, praying, and just talking with the men. He helped some make commitments to Christ.
On Sundays he held services in the hospital chapel, a fly tent pitched beside a nearby rice paddy. The chaplain had good memories of his primitive but spiritual ‘church:’

It had no stained glass windows or even a single picture, but our blessed Lord was ever present, and the men knew it. They sang and worshipped as they had back home. They gradually adjusted to the sights and sounds of the area, and continued to pray or sing despite the noises of jets, helicopters or artillery fire. Attendance at worship services was generally in small groups. In the hospital area and in nearby troop sites large assemblies of personnel were neither practicable or desirable. Nevertheless, they came to worship God. The Marines seemed to take their religion as seriously as their duties.

There is a small chapel at Camp St. Christopher on Seabrook Island, South Carolina with only one noteworthy amenity. It has a large window over the altar with a view of the Edisto River and Atlantic Ocean. As the palm fronds sway and seagulls coast by on the breeze it is not difficult to go to a deeper level spiritually. God doesn’t require much to enter our thoughts. He waits patiently for us to give him our attention. We can worship him in cathedrals or in tents. It has more to do with our own sense of urgency and our own understanding of how much we need him in our lives.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. ~Psalm 25:1-2, 4-5

(This story is a devotional for August 29 from Stories of Faith and Courage from the Vietnam War.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Devotional for the Day

The following is an excerpt from my new book, Stories of Faith and Courage from the Vietnam War The story is titled, "Tracers"

Red-orange fireballs erupted wherever mortars impacted, and enemy green tracers crossed paths with friendly red tracers. Seeing the colorful pyrotechnics, it was easy to forget how deadly the attacks could be. The American red tracers poured out in defense, and the enemy tracers converged inward like a million fireflies at war.

His tracer rounds ricocheted in lazy, bright-red arcs, a breath before the first pinging sounds of steel on steel returned to the south bank. Streams of tracer fire converged on the target, bouncing off in a crazy-quilt pattern and joining four times as many invisible rounds in a giant buzzing hornet’s nest of sound. Then the machine guns on the north bank opened fire in short stuttering bursts and the enemy’s tracers, bright green, came vaulting over the river.

Every fifth round in a belt of machine gun ammunition is normally a tracer. These are special bullets with a hollow base filled with a bright burning pyrotechnic material such as phosphorous or magnesium. When fired, they create a red or green streak that enables the gunner to follow the trajectory of his rounds and adjust his aim accordingly.
Unfortunately, there is an old military adage that, “Tracers work both ways.” The bright red streaks that help gunners adjust fire, also mark their position for the enemy. Hence, the converging red and green fireworks described above.
The Apostle Paul described a similar principle governing our behavior by using an agricultural metaphor: “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). He points out the obvious: When you plant corn, you can expect to harvest corn. When you send out indifference or irritation toward others, you can expect the same in return. Conversely, a smile or friendly gesture will usually lead to something good. The people in our lives and God himself will sooner or later follow the tracers we send out—back to their source.

The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ~Galatians 6:8-9

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

North to Alaska

Its good to be home, but we're sad its over. After a three week adventure in our northernmost state Lani and I saw a continuous display of snow covered mountains and few signs of civilization. We rubbed elbows with old friends, naturalists, geologists, and a lot of hard working, down-to-earth people. We have come home with attitude adjustments and a new perspective. First, we have been weaned off cable news and hope to stay that way. The problems of the world are still there, but we might just check the headlines now and then. I'm sure we won't miss anything important for too long. Second, we've been uplifted spiritually, with a total immersion in the beauty of God's magnificent creation. We have plenty of that at home, but we often forget to take it in. Truly, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."(Psalm 19:1-3) We are feeling closer to God and pray that we maintain that condition in our now-again daily lives.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Miracle That Led to Independence

On the Fourth of July we celebrate Independence Day, the day our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and committed themselves irreversibly to a cause for which they truly risked their lives and fortunes. As with all of history, this great event now has a certain sense of inevitability about it. We know now what happened, and it seems that it was ‘meant to be.’ Only when we go back and look at the details, however, do we see how uncertain this seminal event was and how God’s hand was involved in it.

The Continental Congress in 1776
During the early months of 1776 representatives from the American colonies continued a protracted and frustrating dispute with King George and the British Parliament. After armed conflict at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill the year before, a tense stalemate had developed around Boston. The king had rejected the so-called Olive Branch Petition, approved by Congress in 1775, and had declared the colonies to be in a state of rebellion. British reinforcements continued to arrive in Boston. The situation seemed to be growing worse as the tenuous military stalemate went on in Massachusetts and problems mounted keeping a colonial army in the field.
There was also a stalemate within the Continental Congress between radical and conservative factions. The radicals talked of independence from England and formation of a new nation. The conservatives favored efforts to redress grievances and return to ‘normal’ times. There was a great fear of war and probable ruin, and continued expectation of reconciliation. The conservative approach had prevailed so far during the Congress’ deliberations, even to the point where delegates from six colonies were under specific instructions to vote against independence.

Washington Takes the Initiative
On March 4, 1776, General Washington took a bold and dangerous move to break the stalemate in Boston. During that night he moved a large force onto a hill known as Dorchester Heights, overlooking the waterfront and main shipping channel into Boston harbor. A similar move the year before on Bunker Hill, on the other side of Boston, had caused a violent and devastating retaliation from the British. This move was no different. The British commander, General William Howe, had to respond to the challenge. Both generals knew that a decisive defeat of these colonial forces would quickly end the so-called ‘rebellion.’

The Miracle
On March 5th the British mounted an all out attack on Dorchester Heights, moving troops by ship and boat across Boston harbor. At this crucial moment the weather took control of events. An unseasonal and violent storm came up that a local observer called a ‘hurrycane.’ The storm increased in violence during that day and into the night. Even though the harbor offered protected waters, torrential winds and rain scattered the British invasion force. Three ships were grounded on Governors Island and numerous boats were lost. It became impossible to carry out the attack.
On the morning of March 6, Howe assembled his subordinates. He feared that the rebels had so strengthened their positions over the previous day that an attack had become too dangerous. Since the opportunity had passed for offensive action, he ordered his forces back into garrison. There would be no British effort to take Dorchester Heights. Instead of an attack, Howe ordered an evacuation. On March 17 the British army and navy sailed out of Boston harbor. The eleven-month standoff was over.

In Philadelphia the mood took a new turn on March 23 when word arrived from Massachusetts that Washington’s troops had forced the British to abandon Boston. Celebrations broke out in the streets. The tone of the debate in Congress changed. In April the delegates from South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina received instructions permitting a vote for independence.
The momentum of events gathered from this point. In early May Congress passed a resolution that individual colonies assume all powers of government. On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee from Virginia rose before Congress to move “That these United Colonies are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent states.” Lee’s motion was taken up on July 1, and the issue addressed that Adams called “the greatest question ever debated in America and as great as ever was debated among men.” On July 4 Congress formally ratified the Declaration of Independence, and each of the fifty-six delegates individually signed the document.

A New Authority
Thanks to a miracle in Boston, a new nation was created on July 4, 1776. On that day, the founding fathers took one of the greatest steps of faith in history. Cutting the ties of royal authority, representing centuries of law and tradition, they turned intentionally to God. They declared that all men are, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Samuel Adams rose in the assembly to state that, “We have this day restored the Sovereign, to Whom alone men ought to be obedient.” The United States of America would be under the authority and protection of God and based on God given rights.
In Boston, George Washington did not have a victory celebration. Instead, he called for a church service and thanksgiving. He heard a sermon concluding with the passage: “The Lord is our King; it is he who will save us.” Washington himself firmly believed those words. He knew that God had saved his army at Boston and brought a great victory. He would later state as President that, “Every step, by which (the people of the United States) have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.” He knew better than any other human being the role of God’s hand in winning a war and creating a new nation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Fathers' Day Message

Jerry’s father joined the Army in 1944, a few months after she was born. After basic training he was sent to the war zone in Italy where he served for two years. Jerry had memories of getting together with other service families and playing with the other children. She also remembered her mother’s letters that she always sealed with a freshly applied lipstick kiss. On one occasion Jerry was allowed to wet her own mouth with orange juice and apply an ‘orange juice kiss.’ She had generally pleasant memories of her wartime experience because her mother was so good at sheltering her from the tension and anxiety that she experienced. She did clearly remember the day her father came home.
At last the day arrived when my father was due to come home. Yes, he had survived combat and the attendant challenges of being away from home and family for so long. I was staying with my grandparents while Mom went to the train station to pick him up. When they arrived, I was upstairs in my grandparents’ bath tub. I remember hearing large footsteps bounding up the stairs two at a time, followed by this tall, young man entering the bathroom. To this day I can vividly hear my grandmother saying “This is your daddy.” He grabbed me out of the tub, and we began our bonding process that had been delayed for more than two years.
We know that there were many unhappy endings to family separations during this and every other war. That fact is what makes this heartwarming story of reunion so uplifting. We have a little reminder from history, if we need it, of how precious our families are. We should look at them every day with the eyes of a returning soldier and a long-separated daughter.
(This story is a devotional for August 23rd from Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Prayer for D-Day

During the evening of 6 June 1944, as American, British, and Canadian troops were fighting to establish a beachhead on the coast of Normandy, President Franklin Roosevelt went on the radio to address the nation, saying, “In this poignant hour, I ask you to join me in prayer.” His appeal to God at this pivotal moment in history addressed the concerns of families across the nation for their troops in danger on the beaches of France:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest—until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

These words of a great President from the past are very relevant today for the countless mothers, fathers, wives, and husbands with loved ones serving abroad in harm’s way. Men and women in service today also fight to bring liberty to oppressed people, and yearn constantly for one thing: to return safely to loved ones at home. May God bless and keep safe these worthy descendents of the great heroes of D-Day.
(the complete prayer can be seen on p. 280-281, Battlefields & Blessings, Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Several recent events have acutely focused my attention on the upcoming Memorial Day. Two weeks ago I attended a Memorial Dedication at Camp Lejeune, NC for Force Reconnaissance Marines who were killed in action. As the roll call was read, I heard the names of my good friends Jud Spainhour, Brad Collins, and J. J. Carroll. I heard the names of many other great Marines called that I knew personally or by reputation. It was a sobering and thought provoking experience. I can’t help but think of the lives not lived and the families not started. These personal examples are multiplied by the thousands when we consider all the patriots of the past who have given all in service to their country. God bless them and their loved ones, who will forever have voids in their hearts.
The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. ~Isaiah 57:1

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wall Street Journal Article

On March 4, 2011, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled, “Americans Don’t Want a ‘Truce’ on Social Issues,” by Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. In a very thought-provoking piece, Mr. Land reminded the Republican Party that social-issue voters have been strong supporters of the Party and still look for progress on issues such as abortion and traditional marriage. I found myself agreeing with Mr. Land’s sentiments while disagreeing with his agenda. I don’t know if the following will be published, but I sent a ‘Letter to the Editor’ on March 5.

A ‘Truce’ on Social Issues?

As a politically conservative citizen and voter I find myself agreeing with much in Richard Land’s article (March 4). I am one of those Americans he refers to with “a deep longing . . . for a restoration of a morality that emphasizes personal obligations and responsibilities over rights and privileges.” As a Christian, however, I am also deeply troubled that this call comes from an official within a major denomination of the Christian church. Jesus commissioned his followers to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) Christians are best at accomplishing this mission when they act on the personal and community level to share the Gospel and demonstrate the joy, purpose, and peace that permeate their own lives and churches. They are less effective, and in fact turn many away from Christ, when they are perceived as trying to coerce others in matters of conscience or morality, especially through the pursuit of a national political agenda. Christians today should remember the lessons of our Founding Fathers. As individual citizens, we have an obligation to participate in the political process and work for a better society. As church members and disciples of Christ, however, we are on dangerous ground when we seek power through the political process, no matter how worthy the cause.
Author of God in the Trenches, Miracles of the American Revolution, and Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from World War IIMyrtle Beach, SC

Sunday, February 20, 2011

President's Day

On President's Day we have an opportunity to remember our greatest founding father, George Washington. His service to America is epitomized in a story that came from the last days of the Revolutionary War when he had to defuze a growing mutiny:

After Washington’s resounding victory at Yorktown in 1781, a period of uncertainty settled over the Continental Army. After six years of war the national treasury and foreign credit were exhausted. The soldiers of the army continued to be undersupplied and underpaid. They received promises of pensions, but it became increasingly apparent that these promises might not be kept. It was also apparent that the soldiers’ power to resolve these problems would disappear once the army itself was disbanded. This situation led to one of the defining moments in the life of George Washington and the United States.
With a ‘mutiny’ brewing within the army, Washington called a meeting of all his field grade officers and representatives from every company of the army. On March 15, 1783, he walked alone into a packed and tension filled room. For the first time in eight years he was not leading his men in a great cause, but was facing them as a potential adversary. In a remarkable speech he identified himself closely with the concerns of every man of the army. He explained the political process and all its delays. He reminded them of what they had accomplished in fighting for a new nation and that they were all now citizens of it themselves.
At one point he brought out a letter, and, after a hesitation, made the poignant remark, “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.” Tears flowed freely as the assembled officers voted unanimously to stand with their great leader and to forego a confrontation with civilian political authority. If Washington were a man with other personal ambitions, he could easily have led his army in an entirely different direction. Many implored him to assume the role of dictator or even king. How many times in history have successful generals used situations such as this to install themselves in power? Unlike his contemporary, Napoleon, George Washington possessed a God-given humility that led him to relinquish his power for the good of the nation and future generations.

This story and others about George Washington come from Miracles of the American Revolution.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The King's Speech

Lani and I recently saw The King’s Speech, a movie masterfully portraying England’s King George VI and his struggle to overcome a lifelong speech impediment. The climax of the movie comes with his successful delivery of a radio address early in World War II to fearful subjects around the world needing inspiration from their king. In researching George VI for my book on World War II, I learned only that he was not “an eloquent speaker.” I had no idea of the struggle that he went through to encourage his countrymen during some of the darkest days in history.

Another fact about George VI was not so well concealed. That was his faith in God and his belief that God would see his nation through the crisis of that time. In another radio address at the very darkest period in 1939 he quoted an English poet with an amazing message:

…I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would to say to you: “I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.’”
May the Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.

There is a source of ultimate safety in this world, and there is nothing more important that any leader can do for his family, employees, or subjects than to show his or her own faith and reliance on God and his eternal promises.

For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. ~Ephesians 5:8

(More about this story can be found in Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II, page 6)