Prayer at Twilight

I stared at the photo in my hands, faded with time and dark at the edges, as twilight had been falling at the time the picture was taken. The memories of Vietnam came flooding back. My time at Vietnam changed and shaped me in ways that no other events in my life have before or since. Vietnam was my first exposure to death, and we lived closely with it on a daily basis. I was an eighteen year-old kid who would rather be home in the States, dragging the “vard” and just being eighteen, than giving the next thirteen months of my life over to watching, living, be a part of a horror that those who weren’t there can never fully understand. I changed and became hard inside, like many other Vets. We have deadened or hardened the sore spots leftover from the war in one way or another. The nightmare of the “conflict” did this to us. We learned the hardening of emotion, the withdrawal and repression of all feeling.

Freedom has a meaning to those who have fought for it that the protected will never know. Thirty-two years ago my mother asked me what that meant and I haven't found a good explanation but something close might be this. Even if one were to articulate the meaning in order to be understood by another; the emotions and feelings can not be felt by someone who has not lost their freedom; or worse given theirs up, in order to fight for the protection for others. It is an understanding that only God and those who have been there can posses.

Prayer was a constant, the one I recall most often was my plea “Get me out of here”, followed with “Why?” “Why him, why me, why not?” It all seemed so senseless. Yet I prayed, almost ceaselessly during my entire time on Vietnam soil.

The photo in my hands trembles slightly as the memories it opens splash out and wash over me. Rare were the moments that laughter or relaxation was allowed. Every waking and sleeping moment we had to be on our guard, always at the ready, prepared to kill or be killed. At the time the photo was taken, the detail I was serving with had been holed up in the middle of a North Vietnamese infested area. Danger was heavy in our minds and all around us. We had been fighting endless weary battles for days on end; one fading into another and another, all senseless killing that robbed us of our innocence, our youth and our lives. This day was a reprieve from the war. A day when it had all gotten to be too much and the line between darkness and spiritual light too blurry and we needed an outlet. So we played. Like children, we laughed and splashed and allowed ourselves a day off from the hell that was Vietnam. I remember the bliss, the knots in my stomach easing for a few hours as I let myself just be eighteen for a while.

The day was blessed with God’s grace and we decided to spend the day just living, not surviving, but in being alive. Our laughter still echoes in the memory playing back, the river calm and almost peaceful, sparkling as the sun shone down upon it, our day in the sun the best therapy, aside from going home, those young soldiers needed.

We sunbathed and for a few precious hours, we were just kids, letting loose. Gunfire never erupted, death never stole that moment from us, and God watched over and gave us that day. Having had a good few hours of much-needed relaxation, I was thankful for the memory and the protection of the Lord there under the shadow of death. That single day allowed a U-Turn with God in many ways.

The twenty-third Psalm ran through my mind as the sun lowered into the horizon and I knelt along the riverbank to thank God for our safe haven from the war. My buddy snapped the picture that now rests in my hands and tells the rest of the story. It is twilight in Vietnam. It is the middle of a war, in the middle of enemy territory, we survived a blissful day under God’s watchful eye, and I am on the riverbank, on my knees, in grateful prayer. My twilight prayer in Vietnam.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23

Susan Farr Fahncke Daniel Fahncke copyright 2002

As founder and editor of, I have had the opportunity to read and write many stories. Few have brought me more joy than working on this one with my Father in law. Please pray for healing for him and great patience on this very slow journey back to life.

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