Southern Baptists Say ‘Thank You’ to Vietnam Vets

Glenn Stringham as an Army commander in Vietnam
Glenn Stringham as an Army commander in Vietnam

“Thank you, Captain Stringham, for bringing my son home from Vietnam.”

A 95-year-old man spoke the words of gratitude to Glenn Stringham amid Hurricane Katrina deployment by Stringham and other Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers in 2005.

“That’s nice of you to say that to me,” Stringham told the father of one of the men under his command three decades earlier. “But that’s not how it works. I was a commander. It was your son, one of my soldiers, who kept me alive during Vietnam.”

While those simple expressions of gratitude have occurred too infrequently since the Vietnam War, Southern Baptists will say thank you during their annual meeting to the nearly 9 million Americans — including an estimated 1 million Southern Baptists — who served in the Vietnam War.

The June 16 commemoration, on the opening morning of the two-day convention in Columbus, Ohio, coincides with a national effort signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012 to honor Vietnam veterans during the 50th anniversary of key events during the war, culminating in 2025 marking its official end in 1975. The national commemoration effort aims to involve community groups throughout the country, including churches, in honoring Vietnam veterans.

Doug Carver, executive director of chaplaincy for the North American Mission Board, noted, “Although these heroes made great sacrifices to keep us free and secure as a democratic nation, many of them came back home to an environment of hostility and disrespect shown toward the long war and even the members of the armed services.”

Too many Vietnam veterans returned from their combat tour to face anti-war jeers, mockery and boos, Carver said. Some were even spat upon. For the first time in American history, a generation of veterans quickly put away their uniforms because of the war’s unpopularity.

“The nation never formally welcomed our Vietnam veterans home with a heroes’ parade like we do today,” said Carver, a former U.S. Army chief of chaplains. “We never did something so important for anyone who is willing to lay down their lives for others –that’s simply to say, ‘Thanks and welcome home.’”

Carver and SBC President Ronnie Floyd will lead the convention’s commemoration.

Stringham, who served as a bivocational pastor after retiring from the Army, said he didn’t face much of the disrespect that other veterans encountered because he continued to serve in the military long after the war, but many of the men in his command did. The Vietnam War remains something he and his fellow veterans rarely discuss with others.

“It was like, ‘You’re home.’ There wasn’t any kind of fanfare — except with family — but there wasn’t any kind of, ‘Hey, we’re glad you’re home, thank you for serving,’” said Stringham, who as a 24-year-old in the Army led nearly 200 men during his year serving in the Vietnam theater.

“It was just like, ‘Okay, you’re home. You did it.’”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Tobin Perry

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