I honestly don’t feel worthy to even write a story like this. The only think I know about war or being a soldier is what I have seen in movies. So it is with not a little trepidation that I publish this story. But I think that the idea of someone who is willing to risk his life even for the person who betrayed him is a powerful story and works so well when talking about the gospel. So please take this story as what it is, a demonstration of the love of Christ.
David is a terrible soldier fighting in the Vietnam war. He is captured. While in a concentration camp David’s fear eventually leads him to turn in the man who was sent to rescue them. When the escape finally happens the rest of the soldiers want to leave him behind, but the man that David betrayed speaks up for him.
When it comes to us and God we can’t just be indifferent. We are either Christians and his children or we are his enemies. It was because of our sin that Christ died and yet He was still willing to come and set us free.
David was always a bad soldier. The people in his company said he just never had the nerves for it. He was scared of being shot, scared of being dead and most of all scared of captured. But at the height of the Vietnam war being scared didn’t matter; when your number came up on the lottery you became a soldier.
David was only 19 when he landed in country. As he walked off of the c-130 transport plane he didn’t look much like a soldier. His small body and light blonde hair made him look more like a kid who was dressed up for Halloween than someone going off to war. He fidgeted nervously like a little kid too always looking around trying to see everything at once.
To call David jumpy would be a drastic understatement. Everything made him jump. His unit loved to play jokes on him finding new and dramatic ways to terrify him. Once they set up pots and pans outside of his tent. When he stepped out and tripped the wire the pans clanged together and David thinking he was being shot at dove to the ground for cover. Another time when David was on patrol some guys thought it would be funny to sneak up behind him and throw rocks at his helmet. He thought they were the enemy and fired. They were written up by their commander, but they were lucky that David wasn’t a very good shot or they would be dead.
David lived in a state of almost constant terror sure that it wouldn’t be long before he would be shot or dead, or worst of all captured. You see all the men had heard horror stories about what happened in the concentration camps. The captors weren’t human. They would torture and brainwash and defile their prisoners in every way imaginable. David would rather be dead then captured.
From time to time David and his company would be forced to go out on patrol. They would roam around the Vietnamese countryside looking for VC or trying to capture enemy territory. Most of the men in David’s company didn’t want him with them. They complained that he had to go with them on these patrols claiming that he would be more likely to get them killed than help them in any real way.
But orders were orders and David was a soldier even though he wasn’t a very good one and he was forced to travel with his unit. The rest of the men did everything they could to keep him from being a hindrance. They stuck him in the middle of the group and assigned a partner to him to watch over him and try to keep him out of trouble. His partner’s name was Roger but everyone just called him Lucky. Lucky was tall and big the exact opposite of David. He was never afraid to take on anything and he always had a smile on his face. He messed with David a few times, but Lucky was the closest thing that David had to a friend. He was also the only guy brave enough to be David’s partner.
One day when their unit was out on patrol they encountered a group of hidden VC. One minute they were walking through a quiet patch of forest and the next minute they were surrounded by gunfire. The trees and leaves around them blew apart and it seemed like everywhere they turned there was another muzzle flash. Half of the unit fell before anyone knew what happened. David fumbled with his gun trying to return fire, but Lucky just pushed him to the ground and then dove down beside him. The two of them tried to return fire for a while calling out to the rest of the unit and trying to make a stand.
It wasn’t long before it was clear that they weren’t going to make it. They were either going to be killed or captured. David considered taking his own life, I’d rather be dead than captured he thought but in the end he was too scared even to do that. It wasn’t long before they were surrounded and ordered to give up their weapons. The last thing David remembered was the butt of a gun connecting with his cheek.
When David woke up he was in a small cell. It was dark out and he could hear other soldiers breathing all around him. He tried to sit up, but his head swam again and he grayed out for a while.
Suddenly someone was slapping his face. It was Lucky trying to wake him up. He sat up slowly, his eyes squinting into the morning sun. “Where am I?” he said.
“It looks like we are guests of the VC. They brought us room service.”
Lucky handed David a plate of something that looked like dog food. It was brown and smelled faintly of sour milk. David didn’t want to eat it, but he was starving. As he ate he looked around his small cell. There were 10 other soldiers in the little cell besides him and Lucky. Six of them were from his unit the other four were soldiers he didn’t know.
“Who are they?” he asked Lucky
“They have been here for about a week from what I can gather, come on let me introduce you around.”
Lucky led the David over to the group of guys sitting slightly apart from the rest.
“Guys, this is David,” Lucky said.
“Hello, David,” said a big guy in the middle, “Welcome to Shangri La!”
Life in the prison didn’t turn out near as bad as David had thought. Apparently they were in a prison that the VC were using as propaganda. There were constantly film and news crews being led in so that they could see how good the Vietnamese were treating their captives. It wasn’t ideal, but David thought it was definitely better than dying.
Of course David was still afraid. His new chief fear was that he would do something so bad that he would get transferred to another prison.
“You better be good” his guards would whisper “There are other places you could go, places where they would love to string a little soldier like you up by his toes and play with him for a while.”
David was determined that he would never be transferred and did everything he could to be a model prisoner.
One day a new soldier was brought into the prison. He was beaten up and looked like he had put up a little bit of a fight. The other soldiers tended to his wounds and it wasn’t long before he was up and moving around. When he could finally speak he told a tale that thrilled the rest of the soldiers and terrified David.
“My name is Joshua,” he said, “and I have been sent to rescue you. The Vietnamese are using you guys as propaganda it will be a huge blow if we can steal you back from under their noses. I got captured on purpose and we bribed an official to move me here claiming that my dad was rich and wanted to be sure I was well taken care of. I didn’t think I was going to survive the other camp before the transfer went through. That’s why I look like this.” He gestured to the bruises on his face “Anyway, I am here to rescue you guys. We tried for weeks to find a way to contact you without me getting myself captured. I even came in here as a cameraman for one of the news teams, but nothing worked out.”
“So what’s the plan?” Lucky asked.
“3 days from now while we are spending our time in the yard there will be a small diversion on the north side of the base. When that happens we have to be ready to move out in the opposite direction.”
“That’s your big plan?” David blurted. “Run away from here! We will be mowed down by the tower guards and if they don’t kill us we can’t get very far in this forest! This is crazy.”
“It is risky,” Joshua said, “but we think it will work. The rest of my unit is waiting for us just outside of the camp. We want to do this without force if we can, just sort of thumb our nose at the VC. It is also safer that way.”
“But that is just crazy!” David said again.
“If you don’t want to go then you can just stay here.” Lucky said, “Joshua I’m with you.” The rest of the men quickly voiced their agreement. Reluctantly David agreed too.
David couldn’t sleep at all that night. He wasn’t exactly happy about being in the prison, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. He was alive and the war couldn’t last forever. He would get to go home soon. He didn’t want to play a part in someone else’s propaganda war. He just wanted to go home in one piece. And dying wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. If they were caught again he would be sent not back to his prison but to a far worse place, a place like Joshua had come from. David couldn’t handle that, he had to do something.
He didn’t want to do it, but he couldn’t help it. He could not be sent to another camp. In the yard the next day David casually walked over to one of guards and told him the entire plan. He didn’t want to betray Joshua, but he didn’t want to die either in the end it really wasn’t any decision at all.
When the guards came to get Joshua the other prisoners suspected David. When he was brought real food for supper and not the slop that the rest of them ate they knew for sure. Most of them wanted to kill him right then and there, and they probably would have too if just then the screams hadn’t started. From the house on the hill they could faintly hear the sounds of Joshua being tortured.
“Don’t kill him,” Lucky said, “Let him listen to that.”
The screams went on for hours
The soldiers shunned David completely. They neither talked to him nor looked at him. He sat alone in silence. What hurt the worst was that Lucky wouldn’t even look at him. He had lost his only friend. Those days were hard for David, but they were much worse for Joshua. Each night David would sit and listen to his screams.
On the fourth night David was lying alone on his mat listening to Joshua scream. “How can one man take that much punishment?” He thought “Why doesn’t he just give up and die?” But the screams though weaker than they had been still didn’t stop.
On the fifth night the screams continued again for a while and then suddenly Joshua stopped screaming. “That’s it.” David thought. “They’ve finally killed him.” Then he closed his eyes and cried. He wasn’t the only soldier crying that night either.
Fifteen minutes later they heard an explosion on the south side of camp. David sat up trying to find out what had happened. Not a minute later a soldier was standing at the door of their cell telling them to stand back while he blew the door. All of the captives rushed out the open door heading for freedom. David followed and then he saw behind the soldier who had opened the door a face he never thought he would see again. Joshua was standing there suspended between two soldiers.
The rest of the men were gathered around him excited that he was alive. David didn’t know what to do. He was excited that Joshua was alive, but he had been the one who had betrayed him.
And then it seemed like all of the other prisoners noticed David at the same time. They stared at him with hatred in their eyes.
Then Lucky said in a voice full of disgust, “Leave him, Joshua, he’s the one that turned you in.”
“We have to go” said one of the soldiers.
They all turned to go leaving David standing in the jail cell. Joshua turned and saw him standing there and stopped. “We have to go sir,” said one of the men helping him walk.
“David comes too.” Joshua said.
“What!” Lucky said “Didn’t you hear me. He turned you in.”
“I know that,” Joshua said, “But I came to set you all free and that is what I am going to do. Set you all free. David comes too. David comes too.”
David followed the rest of the group amazed that he was finally free.