Vietnam Veteran on Patriot Day

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This past Thursday, September 11, we were trying to start our school day outside with an educational/inspirational documentary about the heroes of 9/11/01, but we could barely hear the sound over the cutting of a lawnmower. I glanced over and noticed that one of the camphosts had decided to make this morning his lawn maintenance moment of the week, but by now we’re pretty accustomed to this, so we just kept on going. Before I knew it, the man had hopped off the mower and was headed to our site. I couldn’t imagine why he was walking towards us, but he came anyway.

I smiled, and he walked up and said, “I’m so sorry for the noise this thing is making. I know it must be disturbing your morning, but I have to get this grass cut before the campers come in for the weekend.” I told him that it really wasn’t a problem since we’d been volunteering for campgrounds ourselves most of the past year and were pretty use to it. He then smiled a great big smile and started telling us about how he and his wife married 6 years ago, sold both their houses and hit the road without looking back. I told him we loved living on the road too, and then he opened up with his story.

Maybe it was the sentiment that comes with today being Patriot Day, or maybe it was the 9/11 video frozen on my computer screen, but whatever prompted him to tell his story, I am thankful he shared. He told us that he served in the Vietnam War as a sniper, and that it was one of the most difficult things he had ever recovered from.

He was raised a Christian, and when he got to Vietnam his job was to lock in on a target (a person) and shoot, which completely contradicted his Christian beliefs. This didn’t seem to be much of a problem for him during the war, he said, but when he returned home, the reality of his experience blew his mind. Consequently, he spent three years lost and broken. Then, he got help and was able to find forgiveness and full recovery. Since that time, he has dedicated much of his life to ministering to veterans.

In the past he has worked with church groups searching the streets for veterans, getting them into a rehabilitation program, and giving them a chance to recover and find life again. Currently he works with a psychologist to counsel veterans who are broken just as he was, and he’s been told that 2 hours with him is like 2 weeks with the psychologist because of the way he is able to empathize with them and speak life directly into the details of their situations.

This man’s story impacted us profoundly. Even now, days later, I’m still in wonder over the strange blessing of this conversation, and I’m so thankful that I didn’t miss this divine encounter. Most of the time I can give myself at least a little credit for asking a question here or adding something there, but this one was completely out of my hands. This blessing literally hopped off of a lawnmower and walked up to us. I hope that it will be a blessing to you as well.

 

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