By Bob Koscak
We were the first American combat troops to enter Vietnam in
the spring of 1965. I had been raised in a church, but as we sailed from Hawaii
toward Vietnam all my religious upbringing collapsed. I would have believed in
anything if someone had been there to tell me a better way. But there was
nothing and no one.
I knew I was lost. I felt empty and hopeless. I was likely
going into action and had no hope for the future even if I survived. It would
be another four years before I met our Lord. That encounter has changed my
I was a corpsman (medic) with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion,
4th Marine Regiment, from 1963 to 1965. I ended up being sent back to the
States as a “short-timer” before the ammo was passed out. But I am now a member
of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines Association, and often wear a cap proudly
signifying that involvement (often to my wife’s chagrin since it is quite
Recently, I was eating breakfast at a motel when the lady
cleaning tables saw my cap and asked me if I had been in the Marines. I
answered, “Yes.” With her face turning pale, she said her son was a Marine
infantryman in Iraq and she was very concerned since she hadn’t heard from him
for a few weeks.
“If I had to be in Iraq,” I told her, “I’d want to be with a
Marine infantry unit.” She dropped her cleaning rag and looked at me with a
“I say that for two reasons,” I continued. “First, Marine
infantry are well trained and know what their job is. They know how to deal
with any attack. And second, they don’t leave anyone behind or on their own.
Your son will not be abandoned and left somewhere; other Marines will always
respond and help their fellow Marines.”
We talked some more and she took a closer look at my cap.
Surprised, she said her son was also in the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines and in
Kilo Company — my old unit!
My mind shot back to when I needed God in my life but
couldn’t find Him. I remembered being on that ship in the spring of 1965. I
didn’t want this lady in the motel or her son in Iraq to be hopeless.
She asked, “Who are you and why are you here today?” I told
her I was an Assemblies of God minister and appointed U.S. missionary involved
in Native American ministry. She asked me if I would write to her son in Iraq.
I said I would.
As we parted we shook hands and she said, “I need a hug.” As
we hugged in the lobby of the motel, she cried in my arms and I prayed for her
son. I prayed for God to protect him, reveal himself to him and bring him and
his fellow Marines back home safe.
As I was leaving I said to the woman, “You realize our
meeting here was ordained by God, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” she said. There were still tears in her eyes.
I wrote to her son and have continued to pray for him.
I wonder how many times in the lives of His followers God
ordains encounters with someone who is hurting. Maybe the link is as simple as
an old Marine cap. In any case, we need to be ready to step out with God’s love
BOB KOSCAK is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and
appointed missionary to Native Americans.
E-mail your comments to email@example.com.