As strange as it seems, it was during the Vietnam War that I discovered the great secret to a peaceful, happy life. I had been in sustained combat for two months, and the experience was taking its toll upon my physical and spiritual strength. Mail from home was seldom delivered to the battle front; neither were there sacrament meetings nor Sunday services to boost my spirit each week. My only resource was my own prayers. I felt isolated and alone.
Little by little, the daily grind of combat and the constant scenes of death were wearing me down and hardening my heart. I found myself becoming almost like the Nephite warriors—thirsting for the blood of the enemy (see Morm. 3:9).
On 9 July 1972, after a day-long tactical march, my battalion settled into a tiny deserted hamlet that had only recently been attacked. The huts lay smoldering in the last rays of sunlight. In an adjacent field, we found the body of a young North Vietnamese soldier. As we searched his clothing for intelligence information, I looked upon this enemy with cold eyes.
Papers were found on the fallen soldier and taken to the commander. My interest was kindled when I heard that the papers did not contain intelligence information—but that they were a diary. I marveled that this enemy soldier had taken time to keep a journal, and I wondered what his last recorded thoughts might have been.
That evening, I obtained a rough translation of the diary. I read it by the flickering light of my small cooking fire.
“I do not know where we are,” it read. “Our officers say that we are fighting bravely against American imperialists who have invaded our homeland. We fight bravely, but we are poorly supplied. I am lonely. I miss my family far away. I wonder how they are doing. I miss my home and wish to be back in the mountains and walk in the forests. I wish to see again the flowers, the birds, and the animals of home.”
I stared at the paper, stunned by the words. These were not the words of an enemy. These were the words of a kindred spirit! His people and mine had met as foes, glaring at each other over a seemingly unbridgeable gulf of cultural, ethnic, and political differences. But we were not really enemies in spirit. In other circumstances, we could have been brothers.
Suddenly, I understood that Vietnam was not the real war and that my comrades and I were not the real warriors. The real war was waged first in heaven by Lucifer. On earth, the real enemy was not the North Vietnamese, nor any people, but the unseen forces of evil that wage a war of ignorance and spiritual bondage against all mankind.
The real warriors fight under the banner of Jesus Christ. These warriors do not kill or destroy, but rather heal and offer life—eternal life —through the merits of Jesus Christ and a knowledge of his restored gospel.
That day in Vietnam, as I sat by the fire, I discovered that happiness and peace come from understanding the worth of a human soul regardless of race, creed, or political views, and from knowing that we are all children of our Father in Heaven. To know this is to love all people, even those who may appear to be the enemy.