April 24, 2014


SUMTER, S.C. (BP) -- Army chaplain Charlie Clanton had found it difficult to look at the severely burned young soldier at a makeshift medical evacuation station in Vietnam. The soldier’s face had been charred beyond recognition by a Viet Cong grenade launcher attack.

As Clanton, a Southern Baptist chaplain during the Vietnam War, walked to the gurney and bumped it, the young solder opened his eyes.

"Sir, you were right the other night," the soldier told Clanton.

"Right about what?" Clanton asked, not sure which worship service the young man had attended. Later he realized it had been a service two weeks earlier when he had taught on Psalm 23 in a quickly assembled worship service in the mess hall.

"The other night when you told us about 'the valley of the shadow of death.' I was there tonight, sir," the young man said. "And God kept me going."

Later that night the young man died on a helicopter en route to the hospital.

"That statement to me, a young minister -- 'What you're telling me is right; what God said He would do He did; He kept me going that night' -- that really helped me see that my ministry [in the Vietnam War] was worthwhile," Clanton said.

Clanton would later win a Silver Star for his term in Vietnam for leading troops through hostile territory and back to base camp after an injury to a commanding officer.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. Although U.S. involvement there began in the early 1950s, the U.S. first sent ground troops to the Southeast Asian country in 1965 to help the South Vietnamese push back communist aggression. U.S. troops officially left Vietnam in March 1973 after eight years of stateside social unrest over the war.

Clanton was one of an estimated 300 Southern Baptist chaplains in a 10-year period who served in the war. Southern Baptist chaplains played a key role in providing spiritual guidance and support for more than 530,000 American soldiers. The North American Mission Board, then called the Home Mission Board, is the endorsing entity for Southern Baptist chaplains in both military and civilian roles. Read More

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