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
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
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
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.