My Marines gathered to worship last Sunday. It was during our reunion, and we had celebrated hard the night before. I was invited by the pastor to offer words of welcome. I went forward to speak on behalf of these 13 warriors from the Vietnam conflict. Many are now walking with a limp, one is blind, and all were wondering what I was going to say to a congregation that was hosting our time together. Here are the words God gave me.
“Good Morning. On behalf of India Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Regiment, First Marine Division, I thank all of you for your hospitality. Steve, you cannot see the smiling, welcoming faces all around us, but I assure you we are encircled by love in this sanctuary-this room where we partied yesterday and where we worship today. Friends, we are enjoying our reunion this weekend, in spite of the weather. We are not afraid of rain…or mud. We’ve been in the deluge of monsoons for weeks at a time. We are no strangers to the rain.
You have welcomed us home these past days. This was a gift some of us did not receive fifty-three years ago. You have thanked us for our service, and we have replied, “It was our privilege.” We don’t see ourselves as heroes, nor do we consider ourselves victims.. We were honored to serve, to rise to the call of duty, to defend freedom and the flag of our nation.
This reunion was made possible through the efforts of many, especially Pastors Ronnie McBrayer and Garet McHugh, and Carolyn Mullins and all her volunteers. Including those who helped with airport transportation.
Now to India Company, let me say this. Back in those days, when things got too horrible, even for us, we had a phrase. And it was, “Don’t mean nuthin.'” “Don’t mean nuthin.'” Of course it was denial. We couldn’t bear what was actually happening. It was our defense mechanism. Well, I want to say this to you Marines as we look around this room. This DOES mean something. It means a whole lot. This is a place of shalom, of safety and rest. This is the church where Martha and I belong. These are the people we love and who love us. The ones who have prayed for us, supported and encouraged us, and who have befriended us.
This is our home, and we have found God through Jesus Christ in this sacred setting and among these people. I hope you, my fellow Marines, along with your wives, will feel something of that belonging here today.”