Anglican Morning Devotion, 16 February 2022 Anno Domini
a ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
John 15:12-14 (KJV)
NOTE: Fifty-five years ago, my younger brother was killed in action in the Republic of Vietnam. I do not usually write about personal matters, but I make an exception in this case. To many of my readers, Kenny as he was called, will mean very little more than a passing sigh; but to me and my family, he was a veritable celebrity – a VIP in my family. We loved him more than words can express. God also loved, and loves, him. So I share his story below:
I must say without reservation that Ken was a patriot from the time he came to know, as a small child, what the Red, White, and Blue represented. We lived on a mountainside overlooking the narrow Dug Gap passage which was approximately one-quarter mile passage between two stone-faced mountains. It was the gap that General Joseph E. Johnston successfully defended against Sherman’s hordes as they advanced south into Georgia. Around the skirts of these two mountains could still be seen dugouts and abatis (rotting away, of course) and strewn with mini-balls. Ken and I conducted war games around those mountains. He was always the Union, and I was the Confederate – with Kenneth, it was the ‘good guys against the bad guys’.
Kenneth learned the pledge of allegiance earlier than most kids. To him, there was practically no visible line between God and Country. He believed what he had learned from his history textbooks – that America was founded by Godly men on Biblical principles; therefore, God must be the true Sovereign of America. When it came to Old Glory, Kenneth was simply a fanatic for his time. Kenneth would listen to stories told by our father of his exploits during the Second World War and marvel at the heroism of the American soldier at arms. He dreamed of becoming one of those heroes, but worried that his chronic bronchitis would prohibit his ever serving on active duty with the Army.
When a senior in high school, Kenneth appealed to our father to consent for him to join the US Army. Since Ken was only seventeen, parental consent was required. Our father refused fearing that he would be sent to the Vietnam War. So, Ken conceived a brilliant idea: he would get our father to consent to his joining the National Guard. Feeling that the Guard would be a safe assignment, he agreed to sign. After joining the Guard, Ken immediately volunteered for active military duty with the Army.
After basic and advanced training, Kenneth was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and sent to Vietnam. At last, he would be able to gallantly serve his country as a red-blooded American patriot. He was excited at the prospect of bringing the fruits of liberty to a people whose culture and values were alien to his thinking. He truly believed that his going to Vietnam would make a difference in the lives of the men, women and children who had endured savage tyranny under a host of despotic rulers and ideologies. This was the fulfillment of his life’s dream.
After his posting to the Republic of Vietnam, Ken’s letters arrived on a regular basis. His letters were hopeful about how the American side was defending the freedoms of the Vietnamese. They were like Situation Reports of his daily experiences in jungle warfare and the plight of the people. Later, after six months, his letters were less hopeful – a lot more pessimistic. He believed we were not doing much to help the Vietnamese, in reality. He felt that we should have treated them better and with greater respect.
He also believed that the US was not in the war to win, but to simply fill the coffers of the bankers by financing BOTH sides of the belligerents.
His heart was burdened for the people of Vietnam. During this time, Kenneth had written and pleaded with me not to come to Vietnam. He said the fatality rate among aviators was extremely high.
Nine months passed and Kenneth was looking forward to coming home. His letters became hopeful and cheerful. He was planning to marry a childhood sweetheart who, unknown to Ken, had already found another fellow. His last letter was dated February 14th – Valentine’s Day. He restated his optimism about coming home soon.
Well, Kenneth did arrive home to Dalton, Georgia on the 21st of February 1967. He was killed on 16th February.The flag for which he had fought and died draped his casket. He was given a military funeral. It seemed a bit out of place to hear the sweet words to the children’s hymn, “Jesus Loves Me this I know”, being played in the presence of a military honor guard. But this would not have been a contrast to Kenneth. He left this earth as he had lived, loving his country and his flag. He was nineteen years old when he came home. Kenneth is just one of more than 50,000 young men who gave their lives for freedom for a people whom they had not previously known. That is the glory of the American Spirit – to be concerned for the freedom of others.
To this day, I still miss my younger brother, Kenneth. I can almost hear his youthful voice quoting the Pledge, or calling cadence in our childhood army. He was a Young Patriot and I’m remembering, most appropriately all those heroes who gave their lives in all our many wars that we might enjoy the fruits of freedom beneath the canopy of Stars and Stripes which has ever been our Ensign. Well done Young Patriots!