The Rest of the Story
A SOLDIER’S STORY
A true life testimony as shared by missionary Tom Faunce
(as told to Frank Faunce)
My life had known nothing but heartaches, having been in and out of institutions since I was a child. This was a result of having been raised in a large family that always seemed to have one tragedy after another. It was these tragedies which continually separated us time and time again. Whenever it seemed as though we were finally united again, another tragedy would hit.
One cold January night there was a house fire in which I lost my father and grandmother. My mother suffered a tragic loss through this and we found ourselves broken and separated again. As a result, I turned to a life of crime. This led to boys’ homes, juvenile centers, and finally jail cells.
At age seventeen, the courts offered me an alternative to prison. The army. So I entered the army in order to escape my jail sentence. As a result of my choice, at the age of eighteen, I found myself headed for Vietnam. On February 2, 1968, we landed in Bien Hoa, Vietnam around midnight.
As we were landing, there was fighting already taking place all around the air strip, with helicopters flying around and opening fire. The Vietnam Tet offensive, the Viet Cong, had already attacked major cities in South Vietnam. As we heard the burst of machine gun fire, we could see the skies being lit up with flares. As we rushed off the plane, we could hear them yelling at us to keep low while they loaded others back onto the plane we had just exited. One man, while boarding the plane, looked at me and said, “If you want to stay alive, forget everything you have learned.”
That night they took us to Long Bien, where we were hit with rocket fire. The ammo dump was hit and all night there was fire and explosions. It was a hot and sticky day filled with nothing but a sense of dread as I wrote home telling my family that I would never survive this tour of duty.
I was sent with some new troops on a convoy to a place called Dau Tieng, a province of Tay Nien, better known as Rocket City. It lived up to its name as we were hit daily with rockets and mortars. It was here that one fourth of July night I was placed on perimeter guard. It was during this time that we were attacked by ground forces from the North Vietnamese Army ( N.V.A.) They fired over 500 rockets and mortars into our compound. That was one fourth of July I will never forget!
One morning after ending my watch as perimeter guard, I went to rest in my tent which housed twelve men. That morning I was the only one in there. As I was about to fall asleep, I heard a voice saying, “Get up, get out,” yet no one was in the tent with me. Again I heard, “Get up, get out.”
My heart felt like it was going to come out of my chest, it was beating so hard. So I jumped up and ran out of the tent.
The rockets started coming in and the first one landed right where I had slept. The tent was completely destroyed. The steel locker I owned looked like scrap metal and my cot was nothing but shreds. Nothing was left. I did not understand the strange warning and where it came from. But I knew I had been spared.
Months later, I was transferred to an armor outfit, the 11th A.C.R. (Blackhorse). I was a gunner on an APC. We called them gunships. It was with this outfit that I experienced many of the horrors of this war. And it was this outfit that I loved. I felt I was amongst men who would sacrifice anything for their brother in arms. None of us really seemed to know what we were fighting for, but we knew we had to look out for each other.
The Viet Cong would mine every road and path. They would booby trap everything they could and it was my job to do the mine sweeping. Many a young man lost their life while mine sweeping but I had become very good at finding them, even to the point that I began to become careless.
One day I was kicking the dirt with my foot looking to see if there was something under the dirt. Sure enough, there was. Not only did I locate a mine, but I hit the blasting cap with my foot. Once the blasting cap is hit, it explodes right away. This one, however, did not. As I drew my foot away, I was amazed that my life had been spared once again.
Later, on Thanksgiving Eve, I had volunteered to go mine sweeping in the jungles with another squadron, where I had to ride with the artillery. That day, we were ambushed. During the ambush, the captain lost his leg and had to be medivaced out. We survived the ambush and were able to continue on through the jungle until it started getting dark. At this point we found a clearing in the thick jungle and began setting up a perimeter using our vehicles. It resembles something like a wagon train.
Because of our exhaustion and the confusion of the day, we did not set up properly. There were no trip flares set, no barbed wire, and artillery rounds were carelessly left lying on the ground leaving us unprepared. Not to mention the fact that I had been smoking dope and was not in my right mind when I finally went to sleep.
A friend and I had made our bed under an artillery gun (155) at the center of the camp. It was here that we were sleeping when we were awakened in the midst of a ball of flames and explosions. The 155 we were under had been hit. The Viet Cong were firing RPGs at every tank they could. It had hit. It was literally a fiery hell. I could not find my rifle and I was blinded by the flames. Confused, I crawled to another trac where I was given an M-60 machine gun. From there I found an old B-52 bomb hole and climbed in with other men.
It was a night of horror as the artillery we had carried began to explode. It was so bad that even the enemy had to draw back from attacking us. We were trapped between the Viet Cong and our own exploding artillery. A lot of our men died and tanks were leveled to the ground because of the explosions that night. It wasn’t until the next morning that helicopters came in and carried off our wounded and the dead. Then we loaded up with another outfit and had to go on. The stories could go on and on. I can remember them as if it were yesterday.
Finally, the morning I left Vietnam I was at Bien Hoa airport waiting for what we called the Freedom Bird. It was a peaceful morning and I’ll never forget the sight as I watched the sun rise at the end of the airstrip as the plane came in for its landing at the same time. My heart leapt with joy! Free at last was the only thought going through my mind.
We landed at Kennedy Airport, New York, about 250 of us from all walks of life fresh from the war. At the airport we had to wait for about three hours for buses to pick us up to go to Fort Dix, New Jersey. The people were cold to us with no thankyous to be offered—just looks of disgust. I could not wait to get out of my jungle fatigues and get into regular clothing. I felt ashamed.
At Fort Dix I received my papers. I was out of the Army. They gave me a brand new dress uniform which I took off as soon as possible and discarded. I was ashamed to let people know I just came back from Vietnam. I came home to Michigan confused and with no direction. The friends I knew were all into drugs. I ended up thirty days later arrested for the sale of drugs.
I went before the judge, who asked my state-appointed lawyer if he had anything to say for me. He only responded with a no. There I stood alone. After twenty-seven months in Vietnam I was now standing before the judge, waiting to be sentenced. Nothing was mentioned about Vietnam and nobody asked to see if there were any opportunities for help. My sentence was two to ten years in the state penitentiary. My heart dropped to my knees. So this is it for me. So this is what life is all about, twenty years old and doing time.
I was taken to the state penitentiary. They shaved my head, gave me a number and took me to a huge cell block. Four floors high and rows and rows of cells. I was ushered to my cell, and like a caged animal they shut the bars. The first days were of total despair and loneliness. I barely had time to shake the dust off from Vietnam and now this. But I found my escape and that was books. I read and read, consuming everything I could get my hands on. My interest went to eastern philosophy, yoga meditations, and I became a vegetarian. I would stand on my head in weird positions. I would meditate for hours trying to reach a state of Nirvana, which is nothingness. I didn’t realize I was already there.
I was released early because of good conduct about fourteen months later, but I was only out about eight hours and I was getting high on L.S.D. One night, out of fear, I almost shot a narcotics officer. I knew then and there I was a walking dead man. I knew my life had to change. I did what I knew best. I grabbed my backpack and my dog, and with a friend of mine, we hit the road.
With no particular direction, we headed south towards Florida. In my heart I knew I couldn’t come home until there was a change in my life. I had grabbed a book to read on my journey. I had no idea what the book was about, but it had a backpacker on the front cover and I liked the name, Pilgrim’s Progress. Little did I know the impact it would have in my life.
The book was about a man fleeing from the judgment to come, and the backpack he was carrying was the weight of sin. I felt I was this very man. By this time we had traveled to the New Orleans Mardi Gras—one big, giant party. But I felt so empty, my eyes were open to the sin around me. I found no pleasure in it. I knew this was the stench of all sin and I was part of it, and as the pilgrim in the book, I fled from this place. I ended up in Humble, Texas where my mother was living.
I was broken down and at my end, but my heart now longed for truth. God was moving in my heart and I started searching the Scriptures. I knew I was a sinner that deserved damnation and eternal hell. I knew my sins were an offense to the living God. But, as I read in Pilgrim’s Progress, there is a way and Jesus is that way.
The Bible became alive to me. I had seen all I had become and that there was no righteousness in me. March 18, 1976, I got on my knees in Humble, Texas, and humbled myself before the King of kings. I repented and gave my life over to Him who shed His blood for me. The true soldier who fought the war of wars and by His blood I was born again.
The veil was lifted from my eyes and heart. I began to weep, realizing how I had missed it for so long a time. Yet my heart was so full of joy because I TRULY understood John 3:16. That “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” I was truly saved. A new man. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold new things have come.”
I was so excited that night. Not knowing much, but wanting all that Jesus had, I ran into the bathroom and baptized myself. A new man, a new life before me. I had no idea what God had in store for me. Jesus saves a man for His glory, His use.
I have learned that Christianity is not church pews and boring Sundays. But it is life and life to the fullest in Him. Since the day of my conversion I have known what it is to be a soldier for Christ. He has allowed me to be a servant to Him in missions in many countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bosnia, but the most rewarding has been going back to Vietnam and Cambodia. l cannot share in words what it was for me to be in the very area where I had fought with guns. But now I was to bring in Bibles and medical supplies and fight Satan with the Word of God.
I have seen many lives changed from darkness to light. There is a cost. We who have gone have suffered malaria, dealt with boats that were sinking, planes running out of gas, and being shot at for the sake of His call. I am truly a soldier now and I pray my last breath will be as a soldier for the King. He is the mighty one and the King of kings. Jesus is and will be exalted before all men.
There is truly no life without Him. There are many out there saying this is the way, that is the way. But Jesus says in John 14:6, “I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT BY ME.” There is a war waging for your soul. If you will humble yourself, turn to Him, repent of your sins, and give Him COMPLETE Lordship of your life, you will be free, you will be born again. Otherwise, you will “likewise perish.”
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” You can be a soldier for the King or a loser for the enemy. The choice is yours.
P.O. Box 942
Monroe, MI 48161
Peniel Dourado leads a growing number of young people who have gathered to learn how to effectively do the work of evangelism in Paraguay. The following video shares some of the work already begun in Paraguay by these committed young evangelists.
Stones of Remembrance: Vol. I
Stones of Remembrance: Vol. II
Our April Newsletter features WMP projects for three African nations, including: an update on our partnership with Soles for Jesus in sending a 40-foot ship container to Zambia coordinator Richard K., half filled with 8,000 pairs of shoes and half filled with over one million Scripture booklets; the recent arrival of our first container shipment to new WMP coordinator Tanga C. in Botswana; and the upcoming container shipment for coordinator Douglas M. in Namibia.
We would like to share the following two video clips related to the newsletter article: the first showing booklets being loaded and prayed over for the container currently en route to Zambia; and the second sharing testimonies from the three coordinators featured in the article: Richard K. of Zambia, Tanga C. of Botswana, and Douglas M. of Namibia.
Loading and Praying for Zambia Shipment
Testimonies from Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia Coordinators:
WMP’s Harold and Stephen Mack were privileged recently to join Every Home for Christ national directors from 16 African nations in Zimbabwe for a regional conference. Several of the EHC directors joyfully shared with us their gratitude for shipments of World Missionary Press Scripture materials. Highlights from some of these interviews can be viewed here:
Learn more about the recent Myanmar “Acquire the Fire” event and Within Reach Global’s David Joannes at the following websites:
Further information on the recent devastation in Myanmar due to flooding and Cyclone Komen can be found in these Mission Network News articles:
WMP coordinator and EHC national director in Mexico, Gloria L., shared powerpoint files with us over the past months, with slides describing and depicting the wonderful work God is doing throughout the country. The slides begin with the end of 2014 and continue through May of 2015. You can browse the slides by clicking here: Gloria L – Slides (pdf)
Our July, 2015 Newsletter features WMP’s national coordinator for Senegal, Brother D. You can read more of Brother D.’s testimony by clicking here: Testimony of Brother D.pdf
with Peter Hammond.