Call Us : +1 800 876-9880 (M-F 8am-5pm CST)

"I helped destroy some of that country, and now I'm hoping we can rebuild some of that destruction spiritually," says Tom Blessman.

Tom (shown above) was among millions of baby boomers that came of age in the 1960s. An influential factor shaping the direction of America at that time was the war in Vietnam. Tom, then 18 years old, was eligible to be drafted but his number was high in the draft order. Even so, Tom chose to volunteer for a two-year enlistment in 1969. "My mom tried everything to keep me from signing up," he says. But Tom was determined out of a sense of duty and a desire to take advantage of the GI plan in later life.

He became a machine gunner deployed around Da Nang by the South China Sea. Tom's team was given an area covering "nine clicks" (square kilometers) to look for enemy activity. After several days they reported on their mission.

His recon team was not to engage. It was simply to get information and get out. They knew as little as possible militarily so that details could not come out under torture. If they were in danger of being captured, he was to use a thermite grenade to destroy all information, shackles, codes, etc., they gathered during patrol. It was a challenge to stay vigilant and be ready when action occurred. This made enlisted military life "99% boredom, half a percent anticipation, and half a percent sheer terror."

There were heart-stopping moments. Over 28 patrols, Tom's team directly engaged the enemy twice. Fighting in Vietnam took place in impossibly thick jungle. "I couldn't see the enemy right in front of me," he recalls.

Living in constant mortal danger can foster a sense of fatalism. As for loss of life, Tom says, "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen." The Northern Vietnamese Army and VCA (Victor Charlie, "Vietcong") were his main threats to take American lives. Tom's hostility toward the enemy grew during his brief assignment as an aid at a medical base. Some individuals were terribly injured. He was relieved to return to normal service, but memories stay with him.

"The basic population was made of normal, hard-working people who would be wealthy if they lived on more than $2 a day. We were trying to help them, but there was only so much we could do." Soldiers were under orders not to intentionally do anything to make life harder. "What we take for granted they just learn to make do without," adds Tom. Villagers lived in abject despair without hope.

When Tom returned home, he was perplexed by the generally negative reaction of Americans to his service. He suppressed his experiences and moved forward. "You learn to push it to the back of your mind. God made people incredibly tough enough to be able to handle and survive so many things."

Tom was raised southern Baptist but married Dolores, a Lutheran. Through her encouragement, he was confirmed and learned that "the Lutheran church was a Bible-believing church led by men who sought to know what God's Word really said." Soon Tom became very active in his church and met Lawrence Limback, who invited him to join the Lutheran Laymen's League. Tom determined to be active in his local zone of the Central Illinois LLL District and eventually became district president, which expanded his ability to share the Gospel with millions through the LLL and its Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Tom was overjoyed in attending last October's 100th anniversary kickoff. Then thoughts of his military past welled up inside when he heard LHM's ministry center director from Vietnam describe the work that God is doing over there. Tom realized he could be part of a vital effort in bringing Christ to that nation! "I don't mind telling you that there were tears in my eyes as I heard what LHM is doing in Vietnam."

Tom concluded that LHM's approach of hiring local staff is effective and economical for ministry. "I can't think of a better way than working WITH people from that country. A spiritual war is being waged. This time the war is not between opposing forces-it is a mission of hope and life in Christ."

Tom has made a personal commitment to support LHM's work in Vietnam by praying for the ministry center there and by giving every month to carry the Gospel forward. He has a personal message for the countless Americans for whom Vietnam was part of life. "I ask them to join me in becoming part of what God is doing in Vietnam or somewhere else around the world. LHM is sharing the Good News globally, and we can help make it happen."

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

Your browser is out-of-date!

You may need to update your browser to view correctly.
Your current browser is no longer considered secure, and it is recommended that you upgrade. If you are running Windows XP or Vista, you may consider downloading Firefox or Opera for continued support. For questions, email us at lh_min@lhm.orgUpdate my browser now