To preface this writing I relate here, I can only say if you believe what I’m about to write I will leave that to you, the reader. Some things in life are seemingly so horrific that people today will find it unbelievable.
I met this homeless man yesterday named Don. Don is a whisp of a man. There’s hardly anything to him physically. He’s old, much like myself. He is a Vietnam veteran of a dubious nature. He had come to our church through our homeless ministry. It gives some a place to go just to get out of the shelter. Still, some come for the actual church service. I take it he came just to have some place to go. Even at that I knew God brought him to us unbeknownst to him.
He had been in the service I suppose, but when I saw him he was in the back hallway where I was monitoring screens from cameras around the church campus and eyeing people coming and going. I’m on the Security Team as you may suppose. Our church was sponsoring a Food Truck Rodeo on campus that day and the parking lot was filling rapidly.
So, back to Don. He was just standing with a bit of a 1000 ft stare. If you have a military background, you know that stare. I was drawn to speak to him. We started conversing and he immediately opened up about his early life. I will be brief in his telling.
He was by his admission a former POW for almost two years. His conversation unfolded the horrific nature of his prisoner status. He said he was never a big guy. He weighed only 140 pounds when he was captured in the jungles of Vietnam. Remember that weight, because I’m going to wander a bit here as to his military duty.
He said he was a member of an elite group of soldiers call the Ghost Squad. The name comes from the
fact that they were nowhere to be found in any military documents. They operated totally apart from any military unit and it was their job to eliminate pointed targets. They had to train for this squad for two years before going into action.
One target he related to me was an enemy Colonel or General, I can’t recall at the moment. His squad knew if they assassinated him outright they would be making a myrtar of him to his people so they had to devise a way to eliminate him that would not look obvious. They tracked him and watched his movements and found his weak spots and where the best place to rid him from the fight. In order to do so they called in an air strike on a gathering of some 160 people at some event he was attending and obliterate the entire 160 people with him. It is war we’re talking here, so I’m sure they were told to do this deed by whatever means necessary. I am an U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam Era myself. I understand this. Hopefully you never have to experience such decision making as this.
Now, back to his POW status. He was captured in the jungle and taken to a detention camp. He told me these camps are nothing like the movies. They are real and terrible. They were watched night and day and if they tried to sleep there was someone always there to wake them up and keep them awake. Sleep deprivation is not a good thing. He went on to say they were given food, but it was spiked with parasites that ravaged their intestinal system. He went on to say it was either that or starve. Not only did they load the food with parasites the Viet Cong would urinate in their food before giving it to them. The North Vietnamese were brutal. Follow the attached link for more details of their attrocities.
Being in a church setting telling me this I felt somewhat convinced he was truthful for the most part. He went on to tell me while as a prisoner they did not pray to God. They did not pray to Satan. They prayed for Death to take them away after time had made their incarceration unbearable. He said he considered suicide several times.
Still, he managed to make it to the day of liberation. When he was released he was medically assessed and was put on medications to rid him of the parasites and to help him regain weight and strength. At the time of release he weighed 72 pounds. He said he has never recovered from it mentally or physically. Even standing before me he weighed only 85 pounds. After all these years he still has nightmares of those years and has trouble sleeping.
There are many trouble souls like him on this earth. The reason I find him credible is because I had a cousin that lived within eyesight of me back in my youth. He was a terror to me. Always picking on me. But he went to Vietnam as a draftee. When he returned he was drug addicted and suffering flashbacks. Several years after he returned I went home for a visit and I saw him. He was only a shell of a human. He was so subdued from medication. He was barely functional. So, yes I can imagine Don was telling something that had an air of truth about it. I could be proven wrong, but I’m sticking with what he told me.
I talked on with him about the fact he can recover from a degree of his suffering. It would be enough to give him hope even if I believe he can be fully recovered. A little at a time is all he can handle. Much like a starving man in a concentration camp. You don’t sit them down to a full scale meal when they come out of captivity. It could do much more harm. I also gave him my book to read. He said he wanted to talk with me some more at another time. Hopefully he will so I can build on declaring that he can have a full victory in Christ.