The Day Vietnam Veteran Scott Harrison Stopped Believing In God

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Photo: Vietnam Veteran Scott Harrison of Nederland
Veteran Scott Harrison in boot camp in the 1960s, and recently in El Paso.

Scott Harrison remembers seeing fellow Marines all around him as they came under fire from the North Vietnamese Army in 1967 in the Siege of Con Thien. Harrison, who lives in Nederland, was just 19 when he fought in that bloody battle and it changed his relationship with God, as Harrison writes in a new essay.

Harrison and other veterans will read their original prose and poetry aloud at the Boulder Public Library November 20 from 1-3 pm, for an event called Veterans Voices. Harrison also created the Carousel of Happiness in Nederland, carving the animals for it by hand.

Read Scott Harrison's essay:

God is a No-Show at Con Thien

By Scott Harrison

Rockets were raining down outside of the Marine outpost of Con Thien on a late afternoon. The rockets were coming from the North Vietnamese Army, across the DMZ. As usual when the rockets screamed down too close to me, I had been yelling at God to get himself down here and help me, now, or it would be too late. He must have been listening because the rockets stopped and I had not received a scratch. But I am kidding here about how He was listening to me. He was not even in the area. As I lifted myself out of my “hole,” I saw pieces of Marines everywhere. I saw others with their hands reaching up calling for the corpsman. But I didn’t see god. Ever since that day, I have stopped asking him for stuff. If he can’t come down to help out a few dying Marines, I don’t see why we should continue our friendship.

Hell, I wasn’t even looking for a long-term relationship with him, as was suggested years later when I went to a Campus Crusade for Christ event in Austin, Texas. I was there, reluctantly walking one half-step behind my girlfriend. She believed in gaining Christ’s favor, while my own thoughts were focused just feet in front of me.

As it was with god, so it is with his preachers. About three months later our platoon had been in some serious firefights in an area south of Con Thien and north of the largely abandoned village of Cam Lo. Several Marine Companies were in the midst of a small campaign to take this or that hill, I don’t remember. It didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter now.

As we left the perimeter in the early pre-dawn hours, I noticed a Catholic priest standing at the barbed wire, talking to each of the Marines as they passed by him on their way out of camp. He said something to me as I passed, apparently they were the same words he was giving everybody, and he giving the sign of the cross. I whispered to the guy behind me, who was looking quite scared, asking him what the priest had said to him. He said the priest was giving last rites to everyone leaving on the patrol.

Here we were leaving on one more routine patrol, and what? Did this priest know something we didn’t? Did the captain ask him to come over and stand there and make sure that everyone knew that they will likely be killed that day? That is the effect it had on the Catholics.  I can’t imagine what good he thought he was doing for those boys. The priest and I have both been forever happy that I have never been able to visit with him after the war.