On July 5, 1968, I became a part of our armed forces in Vietnam. Assigned to Danang Air Force Base, the northernmost USAF installation in Vietnam, I was part of a team of five USAF chaplains at that facility. We shared our runway with a large Marine Corps fighter unit. Among our facilities were a hospital and a mortuary. Each night we received planeloads of the injured. The task of the hospital was to stabilize these casualties, if possible, so they could be transferred to major hospitals outside the war zone. At the height of the war, we received as many as 500 casualties a week.
In addition, we received the bodies of those killed in combat. After the remains were identified and prepared, they were shipped to a transfer point. During my tour, we shipped approximately 250 bodies a week. Over the entry to the mortuary was a sign: Enter respectfully. You are among American heroes.
We worked hard to provide spiritual support both to our local troops and to the flow of casualties moving through our hospital. Two things we desperately needed in our ministry were pocket-sized scriptures and pocket-sized devotional materials. We had neither during my tour. I often longed to have something available to give to our soldiers, marines, and airmen to support them in moments of loneliness and fear. Because of the sheer number of casualties, we chaplains rarely had more than a few minutes to spend with each patient. A printed source of ongoing spiritual support would have significantly expanded the reach of our ministry.
As we look at the possibility of an extended war, it is critical that we act now to make materials available as quickly as possible for the members of our armed forces. The need is both urgent and compelling. It is a way to serve our American heroes in combat. Also, as I consider the timeless quality of the writings in Strength for Service to God and Country, I see the value in the work for those in non-combat or even civilian capacities.
The eyes of the entire nation are turning inward and upward as we seek answers to often unasked questions. This book may indeed provide inspiration and answers for many people in many walks of life.
James E. Townsend
Chaplain, Colonel, USAF (Retired)*
*Jim Townsend worked for nineteen years as the United Methodist liaison with the military chaplains. Jim passed away after an extended illness Nov. 16, 2004. As a result of his efforts, the first 10,000 books were shipped to troops in Afghanistan in the summer of 2002.
Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the General Commission on United Methodist Men (GCUMM) has been actively raising awareness and financial support to supply a copy to every man and woman serving in the U.S. armed forces worldwide. As steward of the project, the organization has begun developing plans for subsequent versions of Strength for Service that would appeal to public servants and other civilians.
We invite your support and encourage you to purchase a copy of the book, donate to the fund, or host an event to promote the continued publication of Strength for Service at this critical time in our nation’s history.