My Vietnam Soldier’s Story

My husband was a cook in the Vietnam war.  One morning after praying for God's protection for himself and his comrades, he felt he should go into the mess hall early to prepare his baking duties.  He had to convince the head cook to do his work during the evening meal time. Normally, he started his baking after dinner and worked late while the soldiers stayed in the lighted building to do their letter writing and play cards. However, they all had to leave early when he closed the building for the night.

Next to the Mess Hall was the EM(Enlisted Men's) Club, where the soldiers watched movies once a week, but it also closed early because one of the movie reels was missing.  The soldiers were frustrated and angry when they had to go back to their barracks early,

Right after they were all settled into their bunks, the enemy dropped a 155 mm rocket right where the men had been gathered only an hour before. The Mess Hall and the EM Club was destroyed.

I didn't know my husband when he was in service, but we met and married a few years after the war ended.  Even though I wasn't a part of his life during his tour in the service, the pain he carried with him, as a result of the Vietnam war, became a part of my life, too.

We didn't talk much about his service in the army before we married, and today, 48  years later, I am still learning the things he saw, the things he felt, and the scars in his heart.

The first time we watched fireworks together, I could tell he was tense but didn't understand until later that the fireworks’ popping reminded him of gunfire in the jungles of Vietnam.  Sudden loud noises, especially the whirring of a helicopter, would cause him to flinch.

He always likes to sit with his back against a wall so he can see what's in front of him.  He learned in war that it wasn't safe to not know what was around you at all times.

Whenever he watched war movies at home, I didn’t know whether it was good or not to watch them. I was concerned that it would make him relive that time in his life. But it was as though he was looking for a story that validated what he remembered as a soldier.

He seemed to have found the story he was looking for in a movie when we watched the 2016 film, Hacksaw Ridge. The true story of a PFC., Desmond Doss, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor, despite refusing to bear arms during World War II on religious grounds, brought back memories hidden deep in his heart. Doss was drafted and ostracized by fellow soldiers for his pacifist stance but earned respect for saving 75 men without carrying a gun.

My husband was a conscientious objector. When he was drafted, he was a young minister but did not yet have the education and credentials to be a chaplain.  He, too, was mistreated by his fellow soldiers because he refused to carry a weapon. However, many men would have been killed the night their Mess Hall was blown up had he not obeyed the voice of God by going in early and closing the building before it was destroyed by enemy fire.

Another war movie that touched him so deeply was, We Were Soldiers, based upon the best-selling book “We Were Soldiers Once. … and Young.”  This compelling war drama depicts the true story of the first major battle between the United States and North Vietnamese forces. It is a film about uncommon valor and nobility under fire, loyalty among soldiers, and the heroism and sacrifice of both home and abroad.

The war scenes in this film were very graphic.  However, it wasn’t the bloody battle scenes that brought tears to his eyes as much as the last two scenes: one of them a mother pulling her children to the other side of the airport when the veterans came home, and another of a soldier weeping after the war was over because he survived and his friends did not.

Ironically, one of the most agonizing parts of the Vietnam War for many soldiers, including my husband, was returned home – the long, shameful walk through the airport as strangers shied away in quiet judgment.

The other agony is much like the 9/11 survivors experience. They lived when the people they loved and knew did not. The relief and the guilt of surviving will haunt their memories for a lifetime – soldiers and civilians alike.

As I watched these movies with my husband, I think of how young he was when he went to war, only 21. Still, so many years later, the sounds of battle are only a nightmare away in his mind.

When I’ve talked with Vietnam veterans other than my husband, the thing that seems to haunt them the most is why so many had to die. What were they fighting for? Lieutenant General Harold G. Moore and war correspondent Joseph Galloway wrote the book; We Were Soldiers Once…And Young.  Moore said he was sent to Vietnam to lead his men into battle, but in the end, they fought only to save each other.

My husband was a cook in the Vietnam war.  One morning after praying for God’s protection for himself and his comrades, he felt he should go into the mess hall early to prepare his baking duties.  He had to convince the head cook to do his work during the evening meal time. Normally, he started his baking after dinner and...My husband is Chaplain Monroe Landers, now, and he continues to serve beside his comrades at the VFW(Veterans of Foreign Wars) in Marion, Virginia, Post 4667.

I sometimes watch as the different war veterans meet each month.  They are still saving each other as they talk of when and where they served, their experiences, pain, and survival.  And they are still working together to help our widows and orphans and the dependents of needy or disabled veterans and promoting Americanism using education of patriotism and constructive service to our local communities.

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Deana Landers
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I have had many roles in life
Pastor’s Wife , Mom/Nana , Nurse/Health Educator, Writer , Christian Speaker
I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing stories, either in my head or in my journal.

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Story Comments

  1. So many young people lost their lives and while their ghosts and memories live on, it's never easy on the ones left behind. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it must have been for your hubby Deana. For his beliefs and his true heart, he is a hero in my eyes too.

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you for your kind comments, Michelle. What is so sad is that it has taken so long to tell their stories.Appreciate you, Deana

  2. So thankful that the Lord used your hubby to save those men. I'm sure so many of them wouldn't believe or understand the Lord's promptings, but let's pray that the event then, and any following events, brought them closer to the irresistible grace of our Lord.

    • Deana Landers -

      What a beautiful comment, Julie. I can tell that our hearts bear witness to each other. Thank you for your comment and for allowing me to be a part of your site.Deana

  3. Lynn Spencer -

    As the daughter of a Navy officer, men like your husband and all who serve in whatever capacity are true heroes. Please give him a hug for me!

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you, Lynn, for your comment. I will do that:)Deana

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