A Vietnam Vet I met

Our lemon tree has produced a bumper crop this winter here in Western Australia. So rather than let them go to waste, I picked a laundry basket full and put them on the front verge of our rented home so that anyone passing by might take some home for free.

I noticed that the lemon supply in the basket was dwindling after about 5 days. They stay fresh because the temperature outside has not been above 13 celcius during the days and about 2-4 celcius at night. So I went up the back yard and picked another basket full and once again left them out the front of the house.

Our son needed picking up from his work on Friday and I got into my car and began reversing out the driveway, past the basket of lemons and as I looked right to check for any cars, there was an older man walking towards me, a bit dishevelled in his attire,a woolen beenie on his head, tack pants, Ugg boots, and a waist length tweed jacket. He was saying something to me. I had never met him before and wondered where he lived.

He was asking me if I could give him a ride to the pharmacist to get some medication he needed.  I could not hear him clearly from in the car. But my lack of any reply  was interpreted as a “No” by him. He started backing away, ashamed that he had asked. He started to say it does not matter, it’s okay! I had an aneurysm back in May in my brain, and am on medication for it, but had the last one last night…but it doesn’t matter!! He started calling himself terrible words and saying he had murdered many people.

I was still in my car as this man in his late 60’s, with unshaven face and an Eagles beenie on his head began to weep loudly and recall killing people in the Vietnam jungles as he himself was being shot at. He cried and sobbed there on my front verge, near my lemon basket for a minute. I said to him, you did what you were told to do back then….it must have been terrible! He cried some more and said how they (the mobs of war protesters)called me a murderer(nearly 50 years ago!) …”I am a murderer!!”

Somehow he got into the passenger seat of my SUV and I took him to the Chemist a few minutes from my home. He was very grateful. He told me that the medication is free as part of the after care from the Hospital. We entered the chemist, and the staff attended to him, there were many people waiting for their prescription drugs to be made up.

The Senior pharmacist came out with his meds and told him that the Doctor had not specified that the medications were to be put on his pension card…that they would have to be paid for. Well…my new acquaintance was mortified! He said in a slow measured way, that they had specifically told him that the medications would be provided freely! Then as soon as the Pharmacist opened his mouth to suggest that he could do something about it right now, try to make it free for him, my friend flew off the handle and began venting and swearing about hating the system…”and do you realise I fought in Vietnam and had to kill people!!!???” The Chemist tried to soothe him, but to no avail. He left …leaving me waiting for his medications, which I purchased for him, for only $20.

The dear man was distraught outside. I went to him…he tried to push me away with his words of self pity….saying I had already served enough for him…that was when I said—Well Gary(not his name)you served our country and in that way, you served me….so this is the least I could do for you. As I said those words I pulled out his medicines and put them in his side pocket of his jacket there in the shopping centre car-park. He cried some more and followed me back to my car.

We sat in my car for about 15 minutes– me texting my wife Carmel that she needed to get our son from his job 90km away as I was busy with an old fella helping him up the shops.

He began chatting away about his past –not the war–but more happy times.  I took him home to his rented flat not far from my place. As he was ready to get out and was apologising for all the trouble he caused me I(Jesus as me, for we are one)put our hand upon his shoulder and said sincerely as we looked him in the eyes….

No Gary, I enjoyed your company…you are no trouble at all….you are good company Gary! You are a good man…a good man.

He got out of the car saying —   “Well I try to be, I try.”


I drove back home….carrying Gary in my heart! Realising that my Father and His Father had connected us.  God had used the simple act— a white(safe)flag of giving away a basket full of lemons. Gary had told me how he had been taking a few lemons every few days from our basket as he walked past the house.

Somehow this small action had melted something in his mind and he was able to get the courage to come for help on Friday. He was where I HAVE BEEN…overwhelmed with accusation and self condemnation….attacked and buried beneath self cursing and guilt and shame….blaming himself and also drinking himself into oblivion.

As I pondered Gary and our(me and Jesus’) time together…realising I never told him anything of the Gospel…it was clear to me that I was the gospel in action that day….that I was a bridge for him to gently walk upon…treading carefully lest the untrustworthy planks give way…..I was another man who could have condemned him and ridiculed him.

Only that morning I had been sharing with Carmel my wife, that John 14:6 is true of us just as much as it was/is for Jesus.

I Am the truth the way and the life no man comes to the Father except through Me. We who have Jesus as our only life….knowing that we are inside Him and He inside us…just being ourselves in Him…ARE AS HE IS in this world(1Jn 4:17)…we are the WAY into relationship with Father through Jesus our only inner life and nature.

Sure Gary, must believe upon Jesus…not Dennis….but seeing Jesus, and sensing Jesus kindness and lack of judgement towards him in me….has I believe, done wonders in his heart.  God is only made to be real when people see and touch and hear God through you and me. You are the very flesh of Jesus Christ no matter how you find yourself to be at this time! You are the fragrance of Christ!! You are the LOVE of God!! You are always led to death that the life also of Jesus may be fully REVEALED IN AND AS YOU….by just being you!!!

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Author: Dennis Rhodes

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