A Lesson in Prayer from Ia Drang

A Lesson in Prayer from Ia Drang

In November of 2013, I downloaded a book on my kindle. We Were Soldiers Once…And Young by Joe Galloway. I knew the story, or a version of it at least, made by Hollywood and portrayed in part by Mel Gibson and Sam Elliot. I remember being struck with the realization that as I read, I was just days past the anniversary of these events. I wrote a short journal entry about dancing in the kitchen with my wife, surrounded by our dogs in the farmhouse and I wrote, “Kind of hard to believe that 48 years ago, American troops were fighting for their lives half a world away in the Ia Drang Valley.”

Nearly every year I think of this book and I even revisited it a year or so ago. So, this year, as if on cue, my mind drifted to those events. Ironically, I never really pieced together the correlation with Veteran’s Day until this year. I also had never picked up on a spiritual correlation, but this year something struck me. For anyone reading this outside of the States, it is Veteran’s Day in America and I wanted to share a slice of our history and a spiritual lesson I derived from it.  First, some background.

It was November of 1965. America was on the cusp of a new war, a different war. Something far more complex, convoluted and indefinable than anything up until this point. Special units had already been operating in an “advisory” role in the shadows. SOG warriors whose nearly superhuman efforts would remain hidden in the shadows of “Top Secret” for decades. But up until the 14th of November, there really hadn’t been anything resembling conventional armies involving Americans, battling it out in fierce combat.

Emerging onto this hellscape was a new warfare born from an ancient concept. Cavalry soldiers seated on a rotored pegasus, soldiers whose chargers were Hueys. “Birds” dropping in and off-loading American youth into the gauntlet of Vietnam. Young men from every walk of life, dressed in jungle green and fighting an enemy they hadn’t seen in a place that was entirely foreign to them.

These were some of the best America had to offer, the embodiment of its youthful virility.  They were highly trained and eager for action, but they were greatly outnumbered. 242 Americans were lost in this battle between Nov. 14-18 and an unknown number of North Vietnamese troops. Among the Americans lost was Pfc. Jimmy Nakayama, a brand new father from Rigby, Idaho, a place not that far from where I am sitting writing this. He was the casualty of a napalm strike gone wrong.  The result of enemy soldiers so close that a slight miscalculation resulted in a friendly fire tragedy.

So what is the spiritual takeaway?  How does a battle fought more than a half-century in the past have relevance for the Monday Christian? In retrospect, if looking only at superior force, high ground, etc., the Americans should not have been successful. They were isolated, far outnumbered, and essentially cut off except for the Herculean efforts of Bruce Crandall and the other Huey pilots.  But they had something that tipped the scales in their favor.  “Broken Arrow.”

“Broken Arrow” was a code word that would redirect every fighter and bomber or anything that could carry ordinance to that area and stack them to take turns engaging the enemy.  They had someone with superior firepower and might that they could call when the enemy outmatched them.  It was their superior air support that helped them carry the day. Sound familiar?

No matter how good you are.  No matter how sound your theology is, when it comes to spiritual warfare, you had better have some strategic and superior prayer support.

You need to know when to call and who to call and more importantly, you have to have a personal and ongoing relationship with the God that you are calling on.  One of the most fascinating of all passages of Scripture deals with this very fact and gives us a tiny window into what goes on behind the curtain.

Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. 13But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia.  – Daniel 10:12-13

Our prayer support may not always be immediately discernible; however, we can have confidence that our prayers have been heard and that in whatever struggle we are facing, help is on the way.  We do not walk this earth alone. If you are facing mountains today, send up a ‘broken arrow’ and know that He has already sent the help that you need.