Two Words That Still Change My Life

When I watched the war in Vietnam on TV news, I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.

I’ve shared this post several times, and every time I’ve heard from someone, usually unexpected, who tells me the story speaks to them in a similar way.Like

  • A couple I’ve never met in Australia
  • A long ago friend I had not talked to since we were teenagers
  • A young mother who was a former work colleague.
  • One of my best childhood friends

I didn’t know  any of their stories before, but learning we share a similar bond brought new meaning to our relationship.

If you are someone who shares a story similar to ours, I hope you will contact me. My husband and I would love to join our hearts to yours wherever you are. Perhaps these words will change your lifves too. .

a couple sitting at a table by a window with an ocean view

Here is the post, originally called

Two Words That Changed My Life

In college I participated in Chi Alpha, a faith-based student group. When I started dating  a young man of a different faith, he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him. We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

To be fair, I ended the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although the breakup was best of us both, I grieved  the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending the university.

He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) No one spoke as everyone looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”

Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming I was upset . I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.

“That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I wonder why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.

“What harm could it do?” I thought. “Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?”

Two more words

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He had served for three years in the Army . He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- he had served in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

soldiers at a remote military base
various scenes from the firebase where Raymond was stationed in VietNam; I understood nothing about what happened there.

From bullets to blessings-one man’s journey to recovery from war

I didn’t want to ever go to Vietnam again when I came home in 1972 after a one-year tour of duty with the United States Army. I was stationed with the Americal Division, 3/18 Field Artillery Battalion near Tra Bong, a major village located about 25 miles west of Chu Lai, the headquarters of the Americal Division, on “China Beach” at the South China Sea.

On April 30, 1975  the United States withdrew from VietNam after many years of involvement in that country’s war. That conflict remains a part of American history- and also a part of the personal history of the men and women and their families who served the military in any capacity during those years. Here is  a perspective on that history from my husband Raymond Oglesby.

Heads up: this story contains strong language you might find offensive; it is used to reflect what was thought at the time, not what is known today .

Finding My Way Back

By Raymond Oglesby

in country, 1970
in country, 1970

 

I didn’t want to ever go to Vietnam again when I came home in 1972 after a one-year tour of duty with the United States Army. I was stationed with the Americal Division, 3/18 Field Artillery Battalion near Tra Bong, a major village located about 25 miles west of Chu Lai, the headquarters of the Americal Division, on “China Beach” at the South China Sea.

Tra Bong was an artillery base and housed two 8 inch and two 175 self-propelled howitzers. Each gun was capable of launching a 90 to 100 pound projectile 20 to 30 miles. The “fire base” was home to about 120 soldiers. Day and night, we fired the guns.

The US Army trained enlisted men to use weapons to destroy the enemy. Our mission was to route the NVA (North Vietnam Army) and VC (Viet Cong) from South Vietnam. I served as team leader of Fire Direction Control (FDC). We were responsible for working up fire missions and passing them to the gun crews via radio.

 

RAymond on duty at the firebase.

Killing the enemy, Vietnamese soldiers, didn’t bother me then because I did not see them as human. They would intercept our radio transmissions and curse us in English. We called them Charlie, VC and gooks. Without real names, they did not exist. Despite our superior air, sea and land capabilities the United States military lost the war, the first war our country has ever lost.

When I came home, I did not talk about my involvement in the Vietnam War for over fifteen years. I only told two or three people what really happened. I thought only  another Vietnam vet could understand.

After the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial was erected in Washington D.C. (1982), I began reading and watching videos about that time in our nation’s history. In Vietnam, we heard nothing about the anti-war demonstrations back in the States. Now I realized that our country’s involvement there had been a misguided effort. The more I learned, the more I wanted to go back to Vietnam, not to feel sorry for myself but to help the country I tried to destroy.

a replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall with an American flag and a wreath of red, white, and blue flowers
a replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. visits towns throughout the United States

For Christmas, my wife gave me A Missing Peace, a book written by a Vietnam veteran, Robert Seiple. From it, I learned I was not the only veteran haunted by his war experience. Others sought healing from their shame and anger.

And I discovered how much the Vietnamese people had suffered and still did. Unlike other wars, no restitution was made to rebuild the nation so Vietnam steadily declined economically. He described efforts to help rebuild Vietnam and said anyone can make a difference. He issued a call to “reconciliation”, both within ourselves and between the two countries.

I decided to contact Vets with a Mission (VWAM), one of the agencies listed in the book. VWAM is a non-profit, non-political organization that works to bring healing and reconciliation between our countries. Since 1988, VWAM has taken  teams of veterans and other volunteers into Vietnam. At their own expense they travel to Vietnam to build rural medical clinics, support orphanages, care for homeless children and work with hospitals.

I began planning a trip there myself, wondering what I would find and how I would feel. I did not understand why God was stirring my heart for the people of Vietnam. Was I a traitor for wanting to aid a former enemy? Some of my friends thought so, saying “Since you were dying to get out, why would you go back?”

In January 1994 I arrived in Vietnam for my first visit after twenty-two years. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I ran whenever we stopped to visit a site, especially if I had been there during the war. I empathized with the Vietnamese who were still living in poverty. I no longer saw them as enemies but as fellow humans. They treated us kindly and welcomed us wherever we went.

At Tra Bong a crowd of people followed us around, since few Americans have been there since the war. For me the highlight of the trip was a visit to the site of the old firebase.

After walking around the now deserted site, I felt I should kneel to pray for the village people around me. They did not understand what I was doing or saying. Right then, my heart was broken for the Vietnamese people.

As we left, children from the nearby school mobbed our van. My eyes misted with tears as I felt the Lord drawing me back. “You must reach these people for my Kingdom.” I knew then I would go back.

making friends with children during his trip back
making friends with children during his trip back

I have served on several Vets with a Mission teams, teaching computer applications in schools and hospitals. I have made Vietnamese friends. Some people think I am a traitor by giving aid to a former enemy. I’m not offended or resentful toward them. I only know that God has given me a burden and compassion for the people of Vietnam.

In 1970, I went on a mission of destruction, now I go on a mission of reconstruction. We failed to win the minds of the Vietnamese by bullets, but we are touching their hearts through the love of God.

Battle for TraBong

Raymond has written a detailed account of his service at Fire Support Base (FSB)/Landing Zone (LZ) Cindy near Tra Bong Vietnam. The firebase fought a major battle in September 1970. That battle and how it impacted the war in general and one soldier’s life specifically is the subject of his book.

We who served on LZ Cindy in 1969 and after when the unit left in 1971 did a job that had to be done to save more lives than were taken by the enemy. All of us were there because we were asked or drafted to serve this country and help the people of Vietnam survive.

Those of us who did the job on LZ Cindy did the best we could to survive and help those who served with us. It is unfortunate that some of those did not survive, but in war people die, and there is nothing we can do about it.

 

Find Battle for Tra Bong Vietnam on Amazon (affiliate link)

Please visit and follow Raymond’s tech blog. Based on his 30+ years in the IT industry as a software developer, programmer, and trouble shoooter, he shares his experience, knowledge, and inside information on all things computer. Find it at

techsavy.life

drawing of various electronic devices-phone, PC, tablet,
graphic from Lightstock.com, stock photo and graphic site, an affiliate link

sharing the HEART of giving back

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Dr. Aletha