Recently our nation celebrated Veterans' Day. Newspaper articles honoring veterans, especially those who served in the Vietnam era like me, seemed to be everywhere. The day was celebrated by special ceremonies, parades, and speeches. It wasn’t always this way. As a veteran myself, the attention given this year was greatly appreciated. God definitely used my time in the service to teach me many things about Himself and about myself, too.
Watching God Work
Being far away from Lakeland as a young man, it was kind of the Lord to bring many memorable people into my life. Just a few days ago, I received an email from a friend with whom I served in the Navy for two years at the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Maryland, beginning in July 1970. During those days this friend began attending a Bible study, and before long, he professed Christ as his Savior. It was a privilege to watch God work in his life.
During this time, God definitely reinforced the fact that He is in charge of my schedule. As my two-year assignment was ending, I received orders to report to the USS Ranger (CVA-61), an aircraft carrier stationed in Alameda, California. At first, I thought this must be a mistake. I had been told that I would never be on a ship, but God had other plans! My prayer was that God would use these four years to give me direction for my life and help me grow in my walk with the Lord. I also selfishly asked that He would allow me to see some of the world. God saw fit to answer that prayer.
Headed to Vietnam
In November 1972, the Ranger headed west under the Golden Gate Bridge and never stopped until it reached the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam. For the next five weeks, the air wings aboard the ship flew missions day and night. I was very much aware of these long days because the catapults that launched these planes ran directly above my head in my berthing (sleeping) area and in my work space.
After our first R and R (rest and relaxation) in the Philippines, we headed again toward the Gulf. In a couple of hours, an announcement came over the load speaker. It was January 28, 1973, and the ship’s captain announced the signing of the Vietnam cease-fire. Super carriers Ranger, Enterprise, America, and Oriskany lined up with their destroyers in formation for aerial pictures. This would have never been possible the day before!
We remained in the area with brief trips to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and regular visits to the Philippines. On one occasion we headed south until we crossed the equator. The crew anxiously anticipated the arrival of King Neptune, Davy Jones and the worthy Shellbacks of the mysterious realm. It was time for the Pollywogs, those of us not yet initiated (some four thousand six hundred men), to be manhandled by those who had already gone through this ceremony on a previous cruise. The details are too gruesome to print, but somehow we all survived…and fun was had by all!
God provided for me in every way on the Ranger. Some of my best friends today are those men I learned to love as we shared in each other’s lives. Before we left Alameda a group of Christians settled on a portion of Scripture that we wanted to claim for the cruise. It is found in Ps. 107:23-38. Verses 23-24 read, “Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, and his wondrous works in the deep.” We saw this promise fulfilled many times over.
The Impact of LCS
In the months before my tour of duty was complete, I received a letter from Dr. Walter Sligh, LCS Chairman of the Board. He asked me to pray about returning to LCS to work. For several weeks, I prayed, and God began showing me that during my previous years as a student at LCS, as a college student, and yes, even as a paper boy for The Ledger, that God had been preparing me for this next journey. My time as a veteran was a final test…one I will never forget. I’m so thankful God led me to LCS in 1974 where we have the privilege of raising up the next generation in the light of God’s Word.
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