“Our Prayers Took Flight,” Ensign, Aug. 1994, 56–57
While stationed as a marine major in Da Nang, South Vietnam, I came across a message about an upcoming Latter-day Saint military conference at Mount Fuji, Japan. I hurried to the senior chaplain and asked him if our 180 Latter-day Saint servicemen could attend. The chaplain, who recognized that Vietnam was an arid spiritual environment, was enthusiastic about letting us participate. He soon obtained the commanding general’s permission.
Our sole obstacle was transportation: the men could go to the Fuji conference only if they could find spare seats on military flights to Japan. A member of the Church who worked at the Cam Ranh Bay flight operations building had recently promised to help any member find transportation from Vietnam, but when we reached the building, no one could find him. Our large group anxiously watched jets arrive and depart. Each plane to Japan was full to capacity.
After ten hours of disappointment, a Latter-day Saint colonel, realizing that we had been relying on the arm of flesh, suggested that everyone find a private place to pray. We quickly dispersed.
Soon, a miraculous chain of events occurred in Japan. As a certain jet prepared to depart for a round trip to Vietnam via Saigon, Cam Ranh Bay, and Da Nang, a sudden snowstorm covered the runway and caused a delay. Then a tire blew out and the plane had to be towed to a hangar. To make up for lost time, the repaired airliner was routed directly to Cam Ranh Bay, where we waited.
When our group was paged for boarding, we wondered how many of us they meant. To our amazement, the plane had 180 vacant seats. Combat-hardened veterans wept and hugged each other, shouting for joy. All of us boarded the flight and buckled our belts gratefully.
Only those who have experienced war know the physical sensation of leaving a combat zone: it feels like you are shedding a great weight. Tension flows out of your body as the plane gains altitude, and pretty soon you realize that you’ve made it out alive. After we were airborne, a flight attendant came down the aisle with a cart.
“Would you care for a beer?”
“No thank you, ma’am.”
“How about coffee or tea?”
After ten rows of such replies, she paused and asked, “What’s the matter with you guys?”
Several men shouted in unison, “We’re Mormons!”
The conference rejuvenated us spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Even after twenty-five years, I often recall my gratitude for being part of that divinely orchestrated exodus.