It’s Memorial Day. Memorial Day is supposed to signal the beginning of summer in my part of the world! This year we’re reduced to hoping it signals the approaching end of winter!
Anyhow, it’s a day to remember those who have served and sacrificed in the many wars of our lifetime. I suppose there are just wars and unjust wars. I know there are popular wars and unpopular wars. My war, the war in Vietnam, was an unpopular war.
When I came home after serving my tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967, only my family welcomed me home. I know there wasn’t any public welcome. I know my church didn’t make a big deal of welcoming me home.
Through the years, the memories of Vietnam kind of faded. I never talked about it. No one asked so I didn’t tell. In fact, it wasn’t until I returned back to the US in 1999 after nearly two decades of another kind of overseas service as a missionary that I remember anyone actually asking about where I served in Vietnam (Cu Chi), what branch of service (Army), what it was like (Life one day at a time).
It was at Westside Church that it happened. After I had preached one weekend at Westside and had made some reference to my Vietnam service, a man about my age approached me after the meeting, stuck out his hand, and said, “Welcome Home! Thanks for serving!”
Now it’s different. We’re two or three more popular wars along and the attitudes have changed. It’s now an honorable thing to have served in Vietnam. I’m glad.
Today I’m thinking about my cousin, James A. Stephens, who died in battle in WWII, the year I was born, and after whom I’m named. I’m thinking about the guys I knew in Cu Chi, Vietnam in 1967. I’m thinking how thankful I am for the 44 years of life and love I’ve enjoyed since I came home from Vietnam.
Today I’m so thankful!
Here’s the best Vietnam War song ever written or sung. Don McLean’s “1967” And the best answer to the question, “Why did you go?” “Because they sent me!”