Larkin Spivey Finding Faith In War

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

One of the Many Miracles of the American Revolution

As the Fourth of July approaches, I would like to retell a little known story about an amazing event that opened the door for American independence:

On March 4, 1776, General George Washington took a bold and dangerous move to break the eleven month stalemate between his forces and the British garrison in Boston.  During the 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.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fathers Day

The following is a story from Stories of Faith and Courage from the Vietnam War, November 6. Happy Father's Day!
Chad Daugherty was born March 9, 1968. On May 9, 1968 his father was killed in Vietnam. He not only grew up without his father, he grew up with practically no information about him. His mother, in anguish, threw out all the photos and other reminders of the man she would not see again. She also remarried while Chad was very young, and so his father was rarely mentioned in the household. Nevertheless, he was frequently haunted by fantasies of his father returning. He would think of all the things they would do together, but then realize all the problems this would cause his mother.

            At age seventeen, Daugherty went to the Vietnam Memorial to find his father. After going through the search process, he finally stood before panel fifty-seven, looking at the name he sought. His fingers brushed over the letters. He later wrote a composition, describing himself in the third person and his feelings at that moment:

From his heart rose a feeling he just could not explain. It only seemed to occur at that place while gazing at the name and dark reflections in the wall. The feeling seemed to torture the heart. Contrasting emotions of love and hate; happiness and sorrow; pride and shame were all felt at once. Why did he put himself to this torture, he wondered? There was no reason to come. No one made him come. Yet he came willingly.

            The wall became the place where Chad Daugherty resolved the conflicting emotions of his childhood. He talked to his father. He shared all his accomplishments and dreams for the future. He told him how much he loved him. He left a letter saying, “Dear father, you shall always be remembered. Your loving son.”

            There are probably very few men who do not have conflicting emotions about their fathers. They are fortunate if their fathers are still living, and they still have opportunities to resolve these feelings directly. Many of us unfortunately don’t have that option. We need a wall of our own to go to where we can acknowledge the man who was probably the best father that he was capable of being and the one that our heavenly Father meant us to have. Whatever his faults, he helped make us what we are. Whether talking to the man or to a wall, the best place to start is, “I love you, Dad.”

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. ~Exodus 20:12



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

That Flag

On this Flag Day, I am reminded of a story from my book, Stories of Faith and Courage from the Vietnam War:

Al Kraboth attended The Citadel and played basketball with Pat Conroy. While writing his best-selling book, My Losing Season, Conroy interviewed Kraboth and his wife at their home in New Jersey as part of his project to document their 1966-67 basketball season. During the interview, the discussion turned to his friend’s experiences as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. In response to Conroy’s questions, he told an amazing story.

            Kroboth was the navigator of an A-6 Intruder when it was hit by gunfire while bombing somewhere in South Vietnam. He lost consciousness and didn’t even remember ejecting. When he woke up on the ground, he found that he had broken bones in his neck, back, and scapula. He was captured by the Viet Cong and forced to walk at gunpoint through the jungle. In spite of his injuries, he was marched barefoot over the worst imaginable terrain for three months, through rain and mud, mostly at night, to the final destination, Hanoi. He told of harrowing episodes when people along the way tried to kill him and of how close he came to dying due to sickness and starvation.

            The most memorable and moving event of his ordeal came on the day of his repatriation. As the big C-141 landed at the Hanoi airport, he said that he watched without emotion—until he saw the flag painted on the plane’s tail:

The flag. It had the biggest American flag on it I ever saw. To this day, I cry when I think of it. Seeing the flag. I started crying. I couldn’t see the plane, I just saw that flag. All the guys started cheering. But that flag . . . that flag.[i]


            We probably don’t understand this kind of emotion for a flag or any other symbol unless we have suffered for it. The symbol of our faith, the cross, represents Jesus’ suffering for us, and takes on a deeper meaning when we suffer in some way for him. It’s unlikely that we will ever face an ordeal like that endured by a POW or by our Savior, but any risk we take or sacrifice we make to share our faith will bring us closer to the place we need to be—the foot of the cross.

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. ~Romans 8:17


[i] Ibid., 371.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Survivor Guilt

I often think of fellow Marines who didn’t come home from Vietnam. Some were close friends. All were idealistic young men trying to do their duty under difficult conditions. One veteran eloquently verbalized the questions that many of us have as survivors:

Not unlike a lot of other Vietnam veterans in general . . .  do I have Survivor’s Guilt. For me it’s intense . . . Why did I survive? Have I lived an honorable life? Have I minimized my mistakes and corrected those which I could? Have I made the most of the opportunities I’ve been given that others never had: Have I done right by the memories of my fallen comrades? Would they be proud of what I’ve accomplished with the time they never had?  They’re unanswerable questions. We live with them. We don’t whine or complain; well most of us don’t at least, after all, with but a few exceptions, we’re Marines! We just go about life and do the best we can.

I have asked these questions and have also concluded that there are no definitive answers. We owe a debt we can’t repay to our fallen comrades. We do the best we can, realizing there will always be some element of guilt over the apparent randomness of events that spared us and took them.

 Fortunately, there is a way to resolve this guilt and every other form of anxiety that plagues our hearts. Freedom from past wrongs, real and imagined, has already been won for us by our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we take our guilt and worries to him and ask for forgiveness, he gives us a clean slate. We can be thankful not only for our physical survival on the battlefields of life, but also for a chance to start life anew every day with a clear conscience. We pray that our fallen comrades rest in peace and that somehow each has an opportunity to know and accept what has been accomplished for them and for all of us by our Lord and Savior.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~1 John 1:8
            Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. And where these have been
             forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. ~Hebrews 10:17-18

(This story is from Stories of Faith and Courage from the Vietnam War. It is reprinted in honor of Memorial Day 2016