Raised in a patriotic and wonderful army family with fantastic parents, I had achieved my childhood dream by attending and graduating from West Point in 1963.
My first wife did not like the Army so I had made the decision to resign from the Army but my sense of duty, honor, country, the motto of West Point, compelled me to volunteer for Vietnam and serve there before I became a civilian to live the good life in Dallas, Texas.
I was on the alert shift of a firebase and airstrip camp in the central highlands of Vietnam from 4:00-6:00AM in the inner perimeter and at 4:30 when the mortar rounds began falling into the camp, I began grabbing men and attempting to get our own mortars to fire on the enemy and to send illumination flares into the air to spot the expected enemy ground attack on our camp. As I scanned the horizon to spot smoke from the enemy to pinpoint our counter-fire, suddenly I was thrust to the ground on my stomach. One of the mortar shells landed eighteen inches to my left rear shredding my legs with the hot, cutting metal of the blast. I yelled, “Oh, God, my legs, my legs. Oh God, I’m dead.”
Two Special Forces men rushed to put take me underground to the bunker of our medic, Sgt. Jimmy Hill. As Sergeant Hill came up out of his bunker to help, a rocket hit seven feet away and he took a piece of shrapnel in his shoulder and fell back in the bunker where I arrived seconds later.
I believed I was dying and told Jimmy to forget about me and help the other wounded. “No sir,” Sgt. Hill told me, “You’re not going to die…I’ll check the others when I’m through with you.” Jimmy Hill saved my life and I woke up the next night into a brand new world where my left leg was gone below the knee and my right one, broken in five places, was in a cast from my hip to five black toes protruding out from the white sheet. A trip back to the United States in seven days allowed me to be quickly reunited with my entire family. My right leg was amputated ten days after the wounding.
In the eighth month in the hospital, spiritual warfare was exhibited in fears and anxieties at a time when Jesus had not yet become Lord of my life. I was scared whether I would ever walk again, concerned about what I would do to make a living, and sad about my disabled condition. After four days without sleep I cracked and was admitted to a psychiatric ward of the army hospital for fourteen of the most agonizing, painful weeks to rival those early weeks after my wounds lying in bed and begging for morphine every three hours to stop the horrible pain. What followed, of course, were constant anti-depressant pills and seeing psychiatrists for six years.
In the mid-1970’s God took me to a new world and a new level of understanding of my faith. As a teenager I had believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, but that basic faith was not deep enough to quiet my fears, remove my anger and bitterness, or give me peace. I actually became bitter toward God and cried out “Why me?” Then I realized that I had volunteered for West Point, Vietnam, and Army Special Forces, I had put myself in harm’s way. I began to heal bodily; however, my soul and spirit needed healing and I definitely was not spiritually mature. At a church service in the 1970’s my pastor began to preach about the great longtime struggle and conflict between good and evil, between God and Satan for over 6,000 years of recorded history. At that service I realized I had shed my blood for which I wear my Purple Heart for freedom in Caesar’s world, but my Savior shed His blood on the cross at Calvary 2,000 years ago so we could all have freedom from the oppression in our own souls so often caused by the attacks on our mind, emotions, and will carried on by sneak attacks by Satan’s soldiers, his demons, as well as our unwise choices. That day I teared as I looked at the flag of our great United States of America and realized I had been willing, and almost did, to die for what it represented, but had been totally absent on the real battlefields of our lives, that of the soul and spirit. That day I looked up to a new commander in chief, my Lord Jesus Christ, instead of my earthly commanders in the Army.
That day I went to a new plateau and into the new world where Jesus became not only Savior, but Lord of my life. The motto of my earthly army unit of the Green Berets was De Oppresso Liber, Freedom from Oppression. That is what our Jesus offers us. Never again since the mid 1970’s would I need anti-depressants nor need to be counseled by a psychiatrist. My Jesus took away from me this cloud of insecurity and fear and bitterness from my wounds.
Allen is the founder of Combat Faith, a lay ministry. For more information go to http://www.combatfaith.com