Christian Short Stories
A Day in March
By Philip G. Jackson
Philip writes: "My name is Philip G. Jackson. I am retired from the US Postal service and now reside with my wife in Summerville, S.C. I am a disabled Vietnam veteran who enjoys talking about the Lord and also my wartime experience. I believe it is good therapy as an outlet for emotions and stress. My life verse is Phil. 3:10. "That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." I am anxiously awaiting His return and believe it will be very, very soon.
The sunlight flickered through a small hole in the sleeping bag and caught my eye as I tried to ignore the inevitable signs of the morning. Without opening my eyes, I felt around for the zipper and slowly pulled the bag up higher to protect the small amount of refuge I had managed to steal from a world demanding more from me than I was mature enough to handle. I tried to pretend that morning had not yet arrived only to be bombarded by the sounds and smells that had become all too familiar in this new world in which I found myself. The aroma of coffee on an open fire and the smell of diesel exhaust served only to prove that the morning indeed had arrived. In the distance the sound of diesel engines had begun to tear at the sanity that I was able to hang onto with the small amount of rest that I had managed to rob from the short night. The night was always anticipated as a time when I could escape from the intolerable situations of the day, if only for a few short hours to allow this lad of 19 to try and make some sense out of the horrors of this war.
Realizing that I could ignore it no longer, I slowly lowered the zipper and peeked out almost afraid to discover what the morning had brought. Several interruptions of gunfire and mortar rounds throughout the night had left everyone tired and frustrated. So I climbed out of the muddy bedroll, boots and all, and fumbled through what was left of the c-rations, looking for something I could call breakfast. This muddy hilltop called LZ Old Guard, situated in a remote area just south of the DMZ in South Vietnam, was buried in fog. It had been this way for several days now. It was too foggy for resupply, too foggy for mail drop and too foggy for a chaplain to come in and have services. The rain had been relentless for several days and everything was soaked. The mud was literally 3-6 inches deep everywhere. We would dive into a foxhole full of water in the middle of the night and blast away with our machine guns after our perimeter was breached only to find a water buffalo wandering around in the dark. We hadn’t had a hot shower in weeks and all our clothes were muddy or greasy. We were low on fuel and had no idea where we were going next because the command wasn’t even sure. It was just another day. Our only goal; live through it!
My name is Private Philip Jackson and it was 29 Mar 71. I am a machine gunner on an armor personnel carrier, APC, assigned to the Quang Tri Province area of South Vietnam. After 5 ½ months of tolerating the intolerable, and somehow remaining alive, only to ask why, when so many of the others were disappearing all around me, an attitude of less than Christian had been building for weeks now. Part of me felt guilty about it while another part felt it was my right to be angry at the madness that no one could explain. In the meantime someone from the rear arrived to announce that all of our stuff back at the base had been moved to another location. In the process, it was ransacked and stolen and now most of it was missing; pictures, letters, everything that was private to all the soldiers had been violated. Not what a platoon of battle weary men wanted to hear. Our “stuff” was our lifeline. How could anybody disrespect our “stuff?”
Morale at this point was low and getting worse when we were told that the chaplain was arriving in spite of the fog. Maybe he could quiet the angry hearts of the men. If anyone needed a chaplain it was Private Philip Jackson. But the attitude that had controlled me lately wouldn’t allow me to do what I knew I should do. I was angry and frustrated, angry at the war and frustrated with myself for allowing the present circumstances to dictate my demeanor. I was a Christian, fundamental and born again. But now I wanted to feel warring, not forgiving, and wanted no part of the chaplain. So I took my green can of ham and eggs, tucked myself deep inside my track and closed the hatch as if daring God to find me. A good friend had been hit in an ambush a few weeks before and I suppose that I was angry at God. At any rate, church services were not in my agenda.
A knock on the back hatch interrupted my solitude and in less than civil tone I said, “What?” The hatch opened and the figure of a man appeared. The light coming in around him made it impossible to see who it was.
A voice asked, “Are you Philip Jackson?”
“Yes,“ was my reply.
“They want you up at the church service.”
“Not interested,” I immediately fired back.
“Are you a Christian?” he asked.
“Yes, I am.”
With that the man gave me a warning, closed the hatch and disappeared. He said, “Today you are going to get hit, die and go to hell.”
That got this young soldier up and moving. I grabbed my M16, threw open the hatch and jumped out of the track only to find there was no one around. I ran all around the track looking for this self proclaimed prophet but found no one.
Suddenly a voice from the hill where the chaplain was at, called for me to come up and join them. What the heck, I’m up now. I might as well go. As I made my way up the hill I could see a soldier sitting on the side of the hill watching the service. His shirt was off and he had his legs pulled up to his chest and his chin resting on his knees. I didn’t recognize him. He must have come in from headquarters platoon to fill in. That would happen sometimes when we were short on personnel. As I came closer I could hear the chaplain singing along with the men. “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” That all too familiar hymn took me back to the First Baptist Church that I grew up in and suddenly my mind was flooded with memories. For a brief moment I was distracted from the war until I arrived and one of the guys said, “I’m glad you decided to come. We aren’t sure what we’re supposed to be doing.” He had known me as a Christian and wanted me to show him what to do. I began to go through the motions and knew in my heart that this was where I belonged, whether I wanted to admit it to myself or not.
My day seemed as if it was going to be OK until about 10 minutes into the service the radio went off like a bomb. There was no mistake as to what was happening. We could hear the gunfire and the men screaming and shouting. Second platoon had driven right into a classic ambush just about a mile from where we were at and was calling us to come and help. It figures. We were given a few minutes to forget about the war and the war came looking for us. I should have stayed in my track. The Lieutenant called out the numbers; one one, one two, one four and one five; the numbers of the tracks that were to respond to the ambush. We were low on diesel so only 4 tracks were ordered to go. I hadn’t cleaned my M-60 machine gun for about a week because of my “Tude” that I had been sporting and it was dirty, running rough and misfiring. I promised myself that when I got back I would clean it properly.
I was on one four and it didn’t take long for the nerves to start. Here we go again. I could feel the sick feeling in my stomach, the jittery legs and I began to wonder if this was the one I don’t walk away from. We dropped our songbooks and ran back to our tracks. Our driver was a new guy from KY. We were going to break him in real good today. The diesel fired and we made our way up the hill to the meeting point by the chaplain. I flipped open my machine gun and dropped in a chain of ammo and waited. In the distance we could now hear the fight. The gunfire, the RPG’s exploding. I knew in my gut that guys were probably dying and in a few short minutes I would be right in the middle of it. I didn’t even take time to pray. The LT showed up and we took off.
We wound our way up the makeshift road carved out of the woods by the engineers to be used by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam or ARVN. They were to use these roads on the return trip of Operation Lam Son 719. This operation was to prove to the world that the ARVN’S were ready to handle the war on their own. We all had our doubts. As we moved ever closer to the fight we fired our weapons into the areas by the side of the road to discourage Charlie from ambushing us. Charlie was the nickname that was given to the Viet Cong. It was now that I discovered the consequences of my attitude. Because I had let the maintenance go on my weapon it was firing slow and intermittently. This is not what you want when going into a fight. Suddenly I was beginning to grow up and my attitude seemed to give way to fear. And now it is too late to do anything about it. The sounds of war are getting closer and my heart is starting to beat faster. Riding on an armor personnel carrier has it’s security issues. A small mine can disable one and a Rocket Powered Grenade, RPG, will destroy one. So all a guy can do is say a prayer every time he goes out in one.
It was beginning to look like a routine run when a deafening explosion rocked our world. An RPG hit the track in front of us and small arms fire erupted all around us. We had driven right into another ambush. The track in front of us was able to keep going and took off out of the kill zone but not before one of their men fell off right in front of us. We had to stop to keep from running over him. In the meantime the track behind us took off in reverse to find a safer haven. Suddenly we are all by ourselves, stopped dead in the middle of the road, picking up the guy who had fallen off. It turned out to be the guy who was sitting and watching the service. I swung my M-60 around and pulled the trigger. It fired twice then once more then jammed. Now the whole right side of our column was vulnerable because my weapon failed. I started to go down in the track to get my M-16 and something told me “no, don’t go.” I stopped and sat there for just a second then the whole track seemed to explode. We all fell or jumped off and landed in the road and at the same time Charlie opened up with AK-47. Our track was burning and all our weapons were on it. These APC’s were used to carry everything we needed. All the ammo was stored on the bottom; M-60, M16, M79, 50 caliber, grenades, TNT, and C4 explosives. So it didn’t take a genius to figure out that we were in trouble.
I and the guy that we picked up were low crawling in the dirt looking for some safe place to hide when a bandolier of tear gas blew up right on top of us. Both of us were choking and coughing when someone shouted “over here!” As fast as we could we scrambled over a furrow in the road and hid as low as we could get. I glanced over at the men hiding behind a tree and realized that this was bad. Our new driver had taken a shot right through the eye but was still alive. The track commander had received burns on his legs. I never did see the left gunner so I am not sure what happened to him. The fellow we picked up, I found out later was named William Thomas Scott. We were positioned with the burning track between us and Charlie so the shooting calmed down for a minute or two and gave Scott and me a moment to think about what had just happened. The track behind us was sitting about 40 yards back up the road. The track in front of us had taken off and was gone. We needed a medic and the sooner the better . We both knew what we needed to do so we prepared ourselves to make a run for the medic who should be behind us somewhere. We looked at each other, stood up and started to go only to be greeted by a barrage of AK47. I immediately dropped to the ground and Scott was right on top of me. The bullets were landing so close to my head that the dirt was bouncing up into my face. Then out of nowhere the warning that I had received that morning was dominating my mind. “Today you are going to die and go to hell.” Was this possible? At the age of 13, I had committed my life to Jesus Christ and had always tried to live my life accordingly. Could this attitude that I had been dragging around lately be an outright rebellion against God? Had I lost my faith? Was this the warning playing itself out?
I began to slowly push dirt onto my face, instinctively trying to hide myself but every time I would move I would get shot at. I just lay there as motionless as I possibly could. It seemed like I would be alright when a bolt of lightning shot through my lower back and stunned me from the waist down. I screamed for a medic and I screamed for Scott to get off of me. Then everything went silent. I started thinking of home and my family. I remembered the 63 Cadillac convertible that my Dad had bought and let me drive before I left for Basic. And I thought of my church back in Indiana and the commitment I had made to God. This young private began to repent and get things straight. I knew all too well what could happen in the next few minutes. Maybe we could be taken prisoner or maybe they would just shoot us. We were there all alone and none of us had any weapons. They were all on the track and the track was now burning and exploding.
I very slowly slid my hands down to my side to see if my legs were still there. They were there, and my legs could feel my hands to let me know I wasn’t paralyzed. Seconds seemed like hours and again I screamed for a medic. I turned my head to the right and saw a man jump off the track that was behind us and start running toward us. I didn’t recognize this guy. I thought I knew all the medics but this one was unfamiliar. He was tall and slender and wore black glasses. Who was this guy? He came running up beside me and slid on his knees and said “I got you, you will be okay.” He reached up and pulled Scott off of me. I suddenly realized; Scott was dead. I had just met him. I didn’t even have a chance to talk with him and now he was dead. Gunfire started again and the medic had left to deal with Scott. Moments later he returned to help me and fell at my side in a burst of AK-47. I couldn’t process what had just happened. Why did he stop? Why didn’t he help me? My attention was turned to the glorious sound of diesel engines at full throttle and the unmistakable sound of M60 machine guns blasting away at Charlie as the rest of our platoon came to help.
I had met a soldier on my first day named Darrel Johnson. He was a good man with a good attitude and we struck up an excellent friendship. As time passed we became as close as anyone dare become in a place like Vietnam. A good friendship over there could end in a moment and leave you with a void that all too often is filled with drugs and alcohol. The M-60 fire that I heard was Johnson coming to the rescue. He was firing up everything around us. The men were picking up the dead and the wounded and throwing them in the tracks as fast as they could. Someone grabbed me and tossed me in the back of Johnson’s track. My clothes had been cut off me so they could see where I was wounded. When I landed inside the track the hot brass was falling all over me. I yelled at Darrel to put something over me because the casings were burning me up. He stopped firing long enough to put a blanket over me then continued on. I just laid there in the track listening to the fight when the back door opened and someone placed the body of one of our men next to me. It was Scott. He had taken a shot in the back. He was killed the moment he and I stood up to run for the medic.
When we arrived at the LZ, the chaplain was standing there with tears in his eyes looking at all the men who had just been in his service. Johnson picked me up and quickly carried me to the chopper. I asked who the medic was and he told me his name was Holly. As soon as I hit the floor of the chopper we were airborne and on our way to the closest field hospital. We arrived at our destination and they started dragging us out of the chopper. I remember being in this place and looking around and seeing the dead lined up in one corner and the walking wounded in another. The medics categorized us by priority and went to work. I remember waking up sick to my stomach and puking all over my bed. They must have put me back to sleep as I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up in a different hospital somewhere around DaNang. I was told that the field hospital had taken mortar fire and they had to evacuate some of the wounded.
Eventually I ended up on the USS Sanctuary in the South China Sea where I spent a couple of weeks recuperating from my injuries. All told, I had been shot through the hip. The bullet had traveled over the back of my head, along my back missing everything till it reached my lower back. It went in there and came out of my lower hip. I had taken shrapnel under my arm, in my right side and had a broken eardrum. After a couple of weeks, I was sent to Japan for a couple more weeks in Camp Zama then boarded a plane for the States. My arrival at the airport in D.C. was not what I had expected at all. I mean, I was drafted like so many other guys in all of the other wars. When they got home, they were heroes with flags, parades, and people shaking their hands. These guys were so respected for their service. When we were taken off the plane there were five army nurses standing there with little flags. As they wheeled us through the terminal they had to ask people to please move out of the way so they could get us on the bus. There were war protesters demonstrating so I suppose the nurses wanted to get us on the bus before any trouble started. The bus was sitting there like a big tank. It was OD green and had chicken wire over the windows. Like a big idiot I asked one of the nurses, “Why the wire?” She said, “Sometimes on the way to Walter Reed Medical Center the protesters would ambush the bus by setting fire to the trash cans and throwing them in front of the wheels. Then when the bus would stop they would throw rocks and bottles at the windows.” “Welcome Home.”
The next few weeks and months were spent trying to return to a normal life. I finished my time out in Ft. Lewis, Washington and was officially discharged from the “green machine” on 24 December 1971 and the rest of my life began. From time to time I would think about this guy named Holly. Who was he, where was he from? Yet there was no real desire to find out anything about him or his family. How sad that was in retrospect. Maybe his family would like to have met me or heard my side of the story. It was not to happen at that time. I was able to find the other soldier that died that day; William Thomas Scott, on the Wall in D.C. during a trip in the 80’s. I also found where he was supposedly buried but that turned up empty. Holly was a different story though. I looked for him also but was never able to obtain any information at all. After that meager attempt I just let the war take its place in my memory and went on with my life.
Sept. 11, 2001 jolted every American to the core as this was the first time we had ever been attacked on our own soil. This event sent shockwaves through the American military, both active and veterans. The active knew they would have to respond and the veterans were taken back to their own memories of war that had been shelved in their rightful place for many years. For Philip Jackson, 29 Mar 71 came roaring to life all over again. There it was; every sight, every sound and the guilt of not looking for this family that I knew I had to find. I couldn’t ignore it any longer. In this age of technology there was no excuse to not try again. After all, this man had given his all for me. I would not stop until I got some answers. So I sat down at the computer and began my journey that would change my life forever.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and frustration after frustration pushed me to the brink of quitting. After all, I did all I could do, right? I had an idea. Maybe if I could locate Darrel Johnson, I might be able to find out more about Holly. This man had been my best friend in Nam and I wanted to find him also. I knew he was somewhere around Kansas City so I went to the white pages. I learned very quickly how many Johnsons there are in Kansas City and immediately began to feel so overwhelmed. Many hours produced nothing but I never stopped. Finally after calling what seemed like a hundred numbers, a lady answered the phone. “Hello.”
“Hello, I am looking for Darrel Johnson, is he there?”
“Just a minute please.” I could hear her tell him that he was wanted on the phone and he told her to ask who it is.
“May I ask who is calling please?”
I told her to tell him that I was calling to speak with him because I thought I may have been in Vietnam with him. With her hand over the phone I heard him tell her that he didn’t want to talk with me. I heard enough to know that voice belonged to my old friend Darrel Johnson. I wasn’t surprised to hear him say that. A lot of veterans do not want to relive the old memories of war. When she returned to our conversation I told her that I had recognized his voice and I really wanted to talk to him. In a second he was on the phone and made it plain that he didn’t want to talk.
I had found an old letter that he had written to me when I was in Lewis and it had his social on it. I told him that I was going to read him a social security number and if it wasn’t his I would never bother him again. But if it was, would he please give me just a couple of minutes. After reading him the number he was dead quiet. Then he softly said, “that’s me,” and we began to talk. We began a friendship that would last forever. We talked on the phone every month after that and became even closer than we were in Nam. Comrades in war share a special bond that the people of peacetime will never know or understand. At one point his wife wrote me a letter and told me that he had accepted Christ into his life. So on Veterans Day, 2003, I traveled to Kansas City to see my old friend. The reunion was all that I hoped it would be. We all went to church together and we were able to tell the congregation the story of us in Nam. I spent a few days with the Johnson’s then returned home. We have stayed in touch on a regular basis and they have traveled back to visit with my wife and I. As good as that made me feel, I still had a lot of work to do. Who was Holly?
I began my second journey and in a short time the disappointments and frustrations were coming in on a regular basis. Just when I thought I was making progress I would reach a dead end. Someone must have given me the wrong name because the name and dates could not be matched. Darrel Johnson did not have any info that would help me either. I was ready to just let it go. It was something that wasn’t meant to be; until June 10, 2006. My wife and I went to a popular tourist attraction for our 10th anniversary. We were going to spend a few days together just walking around and seeing the sights. We pulled into the parking lot of our hotel and took our luggage to the room and decided to go find some dinner. On the way back to the car I saw a van sitting outside the hotel. It had a picture of the Wall on it. I walked over and looked closer and saw it was the traveling wall. I was surprised to learn that it was a couple miles up the road. We had about an hour before it was time to eat so we decided to go take a look. As we got closer to the Wall, American flags were lining both sides of the road. One could tell that the person who was in charge of this display was someone with a lot of respect for the Vietnam Veteran. I could tell that this was going to be a good experience.
When we arrived, it was the most beautiful version of the Wall I had ever seen. We moved our way to the top of the hill toward the main entrance and Marines in full dress were guarding the wall. There were several tents with aids in them to help the people find veterans that they were looking for. On our way to a tent to look at war memorabilia, a woman asked me if she could help me find someone. I told her that I had already found everyone on previous visits to the Wall.
She looked at me with doubt and asked, “Are you sure there is no one?” as if she knew what I had been going through. So I thought to myself, why not give her a chance. I told her there was one person I had never been able to find.
She said,” Give me a name and a date and we will see what happens.”
Immediately, Holly, 29 Mar 71 just rolled off my lips. Just as quickly she typed it in and the machine came back with NO MATCH FOUND.
I said, “That’s okay. I haven’t been able to find him in over thirty years. I probably have the name wrong anyway.”
I thanked her and started to leave and she stopped me.
She said, “If this man died in Vietnam I am going to find him. Please just give me a minute.”
Out of respect to her diligence I agreed and stayed there, not really expecting any results.
The woman said, “I am going to try another spelling of the name.”
And with that she thought for a moment and then made an entry. The printer ejected a sheet of paper. She looked it over, smiled and handed it to me. I reached for it and stood there looking at it. I glanced back at her and I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.
I said, “this guy died saving my life and this is the first time I have seen it in print.”
Suddenly, thirty five years of knowing about this man and wondering if I would ever really know him, was over. Allen James Holley, from Pittsburgh PA, died 29 Mar 71, from small arms fire- Quang Tri Province-Republic of Vietnam.
It was as if he had came back to say, “Hi buddy, remember me?”
I left my sunglasses on so no one would see me crying and walked over to a corner of the tent to be by myself. This 19 year old man threw himself in the line of gunfire to save me. ME. The one with the attitude. I didn’t deserve this. This was all wrong. He did his job to the best of his ability all the way to the end. Now he is dead and I get another chance. How am I supposed to deal with this? Suddenly I was feeling guilty to be alive. My wife found me and asked if I was okay. I didn’t think I would ever be all right again.
Where do I go from here? I have no choice, I have to locate these people and talk with them or I will never have any peace about Vietnam. When we returned home I immediately set to work to find someone who loved this man and had waited half their life to speak to a person who knew something about what happened to him. Dead end after dead end seemed to be the rule as I attempted to locate someone named Holley in the Pittsburgh area. People would talk with me but no one knew this family. My frustration reached the point to where I was ready to give up. I was just getting tired of the disappointments.
Then one day, during a routine trip to the mailbox, all my efforts paid off. There was a letter from a university in Pennsylvania that I had contacted because they had an archives department. This envelope was too thick to be a letter of apology for not finding anything. I knew if I opened it I may very well have to open up old wounds that had been dealt with over time by people I didn’t even know. My heart was beating a mile a minute as I gently opened the envelope. A letter with an obituary and the names of his parents and siblings were now in front of me officially ending my search.
I opened the white pages and in a few minutes was able to find a phone number that would settle this whole thing when I began to ask myself why I was doing this. Was I being selfish? Sure I wanted to speak with these people but did I have the right? I may be starting something that I was going to regret, or I may be causing more pain for people who may be better left alone. How could I know what was the right thing to do?
I examined everything that had happened in the past few months and came to the conclusion that it was more than just by chance. The Lord knew my desires and I decided that this all came together by his leading. He wouldn’t let it come to naught. After saying a prayer I picked up the phone. It rang only twice when a woman with a quiet voice answered, ”Hello.”
Before I lost my nerve I said, “Hello Ma’am, I am calling from Indiana and I am looking for the family of Allen James Holley.”
There was a pause that seemed to last too long when she asked, “What do you want?”
“I was in Vietnam with him the day he passed away and I thought I may be able to help his family with any questions they may have.” It was if the line went dead. I was now getting very nervous. I told her, “I was sorry for calling and she could just hang up and call me back some other time.”
The woman came back in a nervous voice and said, “No, no. I want to talk with you, I’m his mother.”
Oh wow! I did not expect this. I thought for sure that I would get a brother or sister, but not his mother. I was in no way prepared to deal with what I was about to hear next.
Holley’s mother said that the day that he died she was working when suddenly she had a strange feeling in her stomach. A sick feeling that made her sit down. Someone asked her if she was okay and her reply was, “I think Allen is in trouble.” They tried to assure her that he was all right and she probably just needed to rest awhile from all her hard work. But she knew better. The Lord creates a special bond between a mother and child that no one else on earth can understand. She said she went home and went to bed and knew that her son was gone. She went on to explain that on that very day her son was to be replaced by another medic because his time in country was completed and he was supposed to meet up with his replacement that morning, hop aboard a chopper and head back to the base for processing out.
Now I was the one who was silent. This man was literally minutes away from going home and chose to go to the fight instead of getting on the chopper and going home. Suddenly all that had happened that day in Vietnam came rushing back on me like an ocean. I knew my bad attitude that day had started a sequence of events that ended in disaster for this dear lady. How many times can I tell her how sorry I am? How many times is enough? How do I ever forgive myself for my part in all this? How would things have been different had my M-60 been cleaned properly to allow us the time to drive out of the kill zone before that RPG took us out? People with good intentions have tried to make me believe that things happen that we have no control over; but I believe that we control more than we are willing to admit. We continued to talk for a long time and I answered all her questions to her satisfaction.
Mrs. Holley said, “I am going to ask you a question and I want you to tell me the truth.”
I was almost afraid to respond but said, “Alright, I will.”
She said that her late husband always wondered if his son had died for a good man. “Are you a good man?”
With all the guilt I was feeling, I wanted to tell her, “No, I’m not.” But I knew that the Lord had forgiven me and I said, “Yes, Ma’am, I am. At the age of 13, I had given my life to the Lord and I became a new creature in Christ. I would not have felt the need to contact you if I weren’t.”
With that we were bonded forever. She has never held any ill will toward me at all. In 2007, I made the trip to her home to meet her and the family and it was an experience I will always cherish. They had prepared a feast and I made friends with everyone. Mrs. Holley took me around town to meet Allen’s friends and we went and visited his gravesite. She made it very clear to me that the whole family respected me and was so appreciative for the effort I made to find them and explain all about my experience. We now keep in touch on a regular basis and have a unique relationship that only the wisdom of God could create out of a situation such as this.
For me, Vietnam was definitely an experience both spiritually and intellectually. I was there only 5 ½ months but I received a lifetime of wisdom that I have used in all the years since. The military taught me to hate people I didn’t even know. I learned to mistrust the decisions of politicians a world away that really had no idea what we were going through. When we knew the right thing to do, a lot of times we were not allowed to do it because it was against policy. Attitudes were abundant and hard to shake. I was a Christian and avoided a lot of the vices that were available to the troops. Too many times a soldier would develop an attitude because he had to live in fear of dying every day for a people who didn’t appreciate us for anything more than the monetary gain we provided them. It was so easy to forget all the chaos of the moment with the help of drugs and alcohol. Perhaps if we had an objective to be fighting for and could see progress just once in a while, it would have eased the stress of being there.
The war is now over and the lessons have been learned. Probably the most important lesson I learned was this: Nothing happens per chance. God directs everything in our lives when we trust Him. He will give us clear direction and purpose and will provide us with everything we need so as to accomplish his will for our lives. We are given responsibilities and are expected to carry out those responsibilities to the best of our ability. The bible says to do all things as unto the Lord. When we get lazy or allow an attitude to get in the way of our performance, someone else has to pick up the slack and the consequences of our failure. I had my mind on the folly of the war and allowed it to interfere with my good judgment. I was trained to “always keep my weapon clean because the lives of my fellow soldiers as well as my own will depend on it.” That was my job and my tour of duty may very well have ended much differently, much happier for all involved if I had just “done my job.”
There have been many thousands of stories about the experiences of war throughout the years. This is mine.
(© 2012 Philip G. Jackson – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)
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