ON THE “WRONG” SIDE IN TWO WARS

 

Fuzzy tiger shot smallThanks to that internet haven of narcissistic silliness called Facebook, I recently reconnected with a friend I flew F-100’s with 46 years ago in Vietnam.jd tiger shot bw (2) We discovered we live 4 miles apart. Bob Fosnot (left) had a great career flying jet fighters, while early on I (right) gave up racing the wind and opted to race the rats down Wall Street and LaSalle Street. Foz’s career was more fun—no contest.

The camaraderie of fighter pilots, who must put their lives in one another’s hands, endures even in a vacuum, and with the first sip of dark roast at the local coffee house that 46-year hiatus disappeared. After a quick mutual debrief of our post-war lives, the best of our airborne joint ventures came to the fore. The two of us had been scrambled off the alert pad in the middle of the night to aid a remote Special Forces outpost being overrun by the enemy. It was the scariest kind of graveyard shift work. It entailed adrenaline-drenched, bullet-sweating stick and rudder work in very close proximity to the irregular treetops of the jungle, under appallingly poor visibility conditions—flares floating down under small parachutes in an inky sky. We dropped napalm bombs at a very shallow dive angle very near the ground, inducing a rolling fireball that instantly incinerated all in its path. With friendly troops hunkered in their trenches 50 meters from where we were dropping, precision was paramount.  Intense focus on the job at hand was essential, while ignoring the fireflies in the jungle—the muzzle flashes of AK-47’s aimed at us. It was like performing heart surgery by candlelight with lethal mosquitoes swarming in your face.

We whupped ‘em.

SOT for homepage Xmas 11The flight home, as dawn was breaking, was a thrilling celebration of survival, what Churchill called the exhilaration of being shot at and missed. And there is no greater job satisfaction than saving the lives of America’s mighty men of valor. The sun came up over the South China Sea in a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors, like God himself was smiling on our endeavors. I managed to take a picture of Foz in his F-100 against that glorious dawn with a newly purchased camera that did all the thinking for me. It made the cover of the first book I ever wrote, though neither of us will ever need a visual aid to remember that flight home.

At Dusty’s Pub, the junior officers’ hangout on the beach of the South China SeaDustys PubTuyHoaAB, where humility was an unknown attribute, we never credited our killed-by-air and busted enemy asset tallies to anything other than superior skill and cunning, and in a single-seat jet no one else would know what panic and pandemonium may have taken place in that mini-mobile office in the heat of battle. Now, well into codgerhood, Foz and I readily agreed it was by God’s grace Foz and Wetalone that we survived not only the best the enemy could throw at us, but also our own adrenaline addiction.  Nothing fed that addiction like laying napalm down at 50 feet above the ground and 400 knots, walking 20-millimeter exploding bullets through an enemy force coming through the concertina wire of a friendly base camp, or jinking in the crosshairs of enemy AAA. Gen. Robert E. Lee was a kindred spirit in this regard: “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”

Driving home from our joyous reunion, and well into the wee hours, with the lid blown off the archives in my mind, I pondered how much life has changed since Wet and Foz flew into combat for God and country, and my joy was sorely tested. America won every major battle but lost that war, and we are still paying for it in so many ways. Today Ho Chi Minh has a dozen imitators thumbing their noses at Uncle Sam, with similar results. Vietnam vets came home to a different culture, shockingly hostile to many of us in some quarters, and adrift from its moorings. Half a lifetime later the drift has become a riptide. My post-war biography is a testimony to amazing grace, but the culture appears to be under the judgment of an angry God. What I have steadfastly, mundanely been for 46 years is now reclassified as counter-culture … or worse—a no-remorse Vietnam veteran; a devout Christian, and therefore a proponent of the sanctity of heterosexual monogamy as the clear, exclusive biblical model of marriage, and an opponent of killing unborn defenseless children; and an unabashed, proven patriot ashamed of the politicians in charge. Freedom of religion, if it is orthodox Christianity, is under vicious attack. In 268 combat missions I was miraculously spared from becoming a prisoner-of war, but that is far from a preposterous possibility, given my worldview, in this increasingly hostile culture war. A renowned preacher friend told us listeners recently that he expected to be “running an in-house prison ministry in five years.”

But my Bible-based worldview, shared by all of my favorite theologians, from R. C. Sproul to Jonathan Edwards to John Knox to one-hundred-fifty 17th Century Westminster Divines to Martin Luther to John Calvin to the Apostles Paul, Peter, James and John, holds that, in reality, it’s a cosmic war of biblical proportions with a foreordained outcome. God wins. That makes me a joyful warrior who fears not, even in the face of hostility in his own country.

I’ve been on the “wrong” side of two wars in one lifetime, and it’s still the noblest calling, and now the holiest calling. I am forever grateful that a sovereign God drew me irresistibly to Him in spite of my best efforts to the contrary (John 6:44). If you’re wavering, dear reader, as to which side of this culture war you should fight on, consider a modernized version of Pascal’s Wager: If I’m wrong, I’ve wasted a lifetime. If you choose the other side and are wrong, you’ve wasted an eternity.

Meantime, onward Christian soldiers. Put on the whole armor of God and prepare for persecution.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9).

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One Response to “ON THE “WRONG” SIDE IN TWO WARS”

  1. Jim Sullivan Says:

    As a Christian friend of Art Suro, I feel truly blessed to have received this. Art is a true Christian and warrior as well, and we share that. I am going to get one or two of your books and thank you and God Bless. Jim Sullivan, Army-Korean war.

    Like

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