This lieutenant who was our platoon leader was shot the first day. He stayed alive for the next three days. He was from South Georgia. He said; “does anybody have any peaches?” I said; “No sir. Nobody has any peaches.” He said; “okay”. He closed his eyes and died. You know, I relived that. That was one of the many nightmares that I relived for four and a half years after I got out of the hospital. Vietnam was the one place in the world that I never, ever wanted to go back to.
In my first tour in Vietnam, my company was involved in a search and destroy mission. We walked into a regiminal base camp just below the demilitarized zone and in a five-day battle, we fought hand to hand. Over half of my company were casualties. We had five helicopters shot down in three days. The wounded died because we couldn’t get them evacuated. We were eating food off of the dead enemy soldiers. They had to drop ammunition to us by helicopters that were flying high. Half of it went to the enemy. We were fighting off human wave attacks day after day, after day. The bodies just piled up.
Years later I started going back to Vietnam and on one particular trip, I was the Team Leader. We were working at a Polio orphanage and we were scheduling our next project. I was to meet with a group of Vietnamese officials, one of them was a former North Vietnamese Colonel who was over all of the social services in the city of Saigon. As we began talking I discovered that he was the regimental commander of the unit that nearly wiped my company out in that five day battle on the DMZ. So, there was this silence on the other side of the table. The Americans, we were sitting on one side of the table and the communist officials were sitting on the other side of the table. Through our interpreter, a young lady named Hin. Hin was an amazing young lady. She spoke English, French, German, about five languages. She spoke English with like a Cambridge accent, you know, Oxford accent like she grew up in England. So, through Hin, we are talking to this Colonel and he said; “Why do you do this? Why are you coming back to my country especially, in light of the fact that we were previously enemies?” I looked at this Colonel and I said; “Sir, I want you to know that because of my relationship with Jesus Christ that all of the pain and suffering that I experienced in Vietnam, He has taken it all away. I can tell you, Sir, I love you and God loves you.” Well, Hin sat back down at the end of the table and started weeping. Then there was another silence as all the communist officials look at that other table thinking; What did this imperialist war dog say to our precious sister to cause her to cry? This went on for a couple of minutes and it was kind of quiet in there. When she turned to the Colonel and told him what I had said, he went from looking at her to looking at me with a stunned look on his face. Then he stood up. He walked all the way around. As he was coming around, I got up and faced him and he just looked at me. He threw his arms around me and put his head against my chest. He began to sob. So, I’m holding him, you know. After he finished crying, he said to Hin and me, he said; “I’ve never had an enemy tell me that he loved me.” You know I think that was probably an assumption made at that time in my life that I knew that God had called me back to Vietnam for a time such as this.