“Diary of My Enemy,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, 63–64
Strangely, it was during the Vietnam War that I discovered the great secret to a happy life. I had been in sustained combat for two months, and its grueling demands were taking their toll upon my physical and spiritual stamina. Mail from home was seldom delivered to the battle front; neither were there sacrament meetings or Sunday services to boost my spirit each week. I was left entirely to my own prayers and inner supplications. I felt isolated and alone.
Little by little, I felt the daily grind of combat and the persistent scenes of death wearing me down and callousing my spiritual sensitivity. 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. The huts lay smoldering in the last rays of sunlight. In a field adjacent to our column lay the body of a young North Vietnamese soldier. South Vietnamese marines searched his clothing for intelligence information.
A tingle raced along my spine at this reminder of the ugliness and nearness of death. I looked upon this enemy with cold eyes.
Papers were found on the fallen soldier and brought to the commander. My interest was kindled when I heard that they were not intelligence information but a diary. I marveled that this enemy soldier had taken time to write down his thoughts. I wondered: What were the last recorded thoughts of this dead enemy?
That evening, a rough translation of the diary was provided, and 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 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 upon the hearts of mankind.
And 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 comes 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.