I was about to end my life in Sydney when ...
Vietnam War veteran looks back at what kept him going
In 1970 I was a nineteen-year-old American soldier on R&R (Rest and Recuperation) standing on a street corner in Sydney. Having been fighting in Vietnam, I was suicidal and angry with God. But something life-changing happened as I was about to throw myself in front of a taxi rushing through Sydney.
I had joined the Army the day I graduated from high school in 1968. I wanted to serve my God and my country as a combat medic – I wanted to save lives, not kill them.
My first assignment was on the DMZ (demilitarized zone) in Korea during the time the USS Pueblo was being held captive by North Korea. While in Korea, I volunteered to be reassigned to duty in Vietnam so I could see first-hand the war and be a part of history.
I would later realise it wasn’t the kind of history I wanted to be a part of.
While in Vietnam, I became very depressed, lonely, isolated, and angry. I felt betrayed by my country and my God! I was a committed Christian under great oppression from being in war.
I cursed God and threw my Bible in a fit of rage. I then plotted to kill the Battalion Commander. I had about a half-dozen grenades and was getting ready to leave when my First Sergeant walked in on me. He was an amazing Christian First Sergeant. We went to chapel together every Sunday where I played the organ.
“Kirk, what are you doing with those grenades?” he asked me. I told him I was going to kill the Battalion Commander. He replied, “Kirk, you have got to get out of here!”
Instead of having me put in jail, the very next day he put me on a plane going to Sydney, Australia.
I spent the first two days and nights in Sydney in the night clubs and bars. I didn’t drink, so I found myself still alone and depressed. I was out of fellowship with God and man!
On the third day, I was standing on a street corner and saw a taxi speeding towards me. I decided I was going to jump in front of it and commit suicide.
In one final act, I raised my fist in the air and I yelled at God, “If you are going to do something, you better do it now!”
With my fist still in the air, I noticed that it was pointed right at a sign that said Bible House! I lowered my fist, walked across the street, and entered a Bible book store. There was a young girl working there whose name was Lynn Townsend.
I asked her if there was anything in Sydney like Youth for Christ. She said no, but there was a group called Teen Crusaders. She asked if I was a US serviceman and invited me to go with her and a Teen Crusaders group on an outing the next day to the mountains and the beach.
She gave me all the directions and the right train to catch to go to Hornsby. The next day, I met up with an amazing group of young people who took me in, fed me, loved on me, and reassured me that God had not abandoned me!
I spent the rest of my R&R with them! I returned to Vietnam refreshed and renewed and knew that God had indeed showed himself strong on my behalf.
My new friends in Sydney never knew how God used them to save my life.
I lost contact with them after I came home to the States. If anyone can help me reconnect, that would be amazing!
My Australian friends from 1970 are Lynn Townsend, Greg Chambers, Adrian Baines, and Cheryl McDougal.
I recently did a Google search on “Bible House” in Sydney, Australia. I discovered that building was the home of “Bible Society Australia” – and it is now an historical landmark!
If you are in Sydney and look towards the top of the building you can see the words ‘Bible House’ etched in stone.
It has been a long 48 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday!
In some ways, I wish I had a different life story. One where I had persevered and held strong to my faith all the way through. The Vietnam War took a lifelong toll on me and I am still trying to make my way back home. I have been diagnosed with PTSD.
When I got home in 1970, I spent the next ten years working my way through Bible College and, for a few years, became pastor of a small country church in Oregon.
What happened to me in Sydney is one of the greatest moments in my life.
I will be 69 next March and it hope to be able to stand on that Sydney street corner again – with my Australian friends from 1970.