I was medevaced from our firebase in the central highlands of Vietnam to the 67th evac hospital at Qui Nhon being flown to Clark Air Force base in the Philippines and then on to “Camp Zama Army Hospital” in Tokyo. After a month to determine the extent of my injuries I was medevaced to “Letterman General Hospital” at the Presidio in San Francisco. I had entered the army the previous year in Oakland across the bay and now I faced five more months of hospitalization before I was medically discharged. My tour of duty in Vietnam had been abruptly cut short but another lay ahead.
While I was making my painful pilgrimage through Army hospitals overseas my friends back home in Sacramento where cruising “K” Street on Friday nights, getting ready for their sophomore year in college or stocking the shelves in Safeway with “Cheerios”. For them life hadn’t skipped a beat. They would be virtually the same when I came back from Vietnam as the day I left. Little had changed back in the world since I had left but I was no longer the same naïve teenager who had walked into the “Oakland Induction Center” the year before. A whole new paradigm had been forged in the crucible of Vietnam. I had learned the hard way that life wasn’t all teenage fun and games and playing war - Lessons that would serve me well for the rest of my life.
Vietnam profoundly changed most of us but for me the change had eternal implications. It was there in the muddy slop of a foxhole that I had promised to give my life to God but, like the day I volunteered for the, I was just as clueless as to what that would mean, what I was getting myself into or the sacrifices that would be required of me. In hindsight, the path He choose to honor that promise was not the one I could have imagined. God’s ways are not our ways. The path God calls us to is often radically different than the one we would have booked ourselves.
Through the hardships of Vietnam to the months of agonizing transit through a hellish world of maimed and disfigured men I had come to a place of brokenness myself. Those months had been a time of subtle preparation. God had been with me each step of the way laying the groundwork for the consequences of my promise and another army He was calling me to.
Two days before Christmas, I was honorably discharged as medically unfit to serve Uncle Sam any longer but that ending was only the beginning of a different tour of duty as a soldier of Christ. In the years that followed I would find myself fighting on many battlefields - not in the rice paddies or jungles of Vietnam but on a spiritual battlefield with its own sacrifices, hardships and suffering.
Looking back, I can honestly say that both tours of duty were worth the sacrifice! Fifty-three years later, I am no longer young, I am no longer clueless and I’m still reporting for duty every morning. Rest assured that if I die before He returns, they will find me still at my post with my finger pointing to Him.