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Base personnel celebrate National Day of Prayer

By Sgt. Phuong Chau | | May 1, 2003

Combat changes you ...

One man who was changed by combat changed was the guest speaker at the base's annual Prayer Breakfast at the MCLB Conference Center May 1. Combat changed him, but prayer kept him alive.

WFXL-31 anchorman Jon Williams spoke to Marines, civilian Marines and other guests at the event the base held in observance of the National Day of Prayer.

The history of the National Day of Prayer goes back to the days of George Washington when he first called for people to pray for the new nation, said Lt. Cmdr. Roger C. Richards, command chaplain.

"I cannot think of a time in our history when prayer was not needed for our nation," said Richards.

According to Richards, it is easy for people to forget about prayer when the nation is having success. He stressed that everyone needs to continue to pray for the nation, its people and service members who are in harm's way.

Williams understands being in harm's way and the importance of prayer, who talked about his training at the Basic Underwater Demolition School. He compared the school to Marine Corps Boot Camp and told stories that brought chuckles from the crowd.

One of Williams' stories did not generate laughter, but probably made the audience think.

During the Vietnam War, Williams served with Underwater Demolition Team-11 and Navy SEAL Team 1 and later on with the Fifth Special Forces, 11th Group.

Williams' grandmother was working at a Georgia sewing factory when two Red Cross workers walked in and notified her that Williams was missing in action in the Republic of Vietnam. She dropped to her knees at that very moment and prayed her grandson home.

Williams was on a reconnaissance mission in northeast Vietnam. His unit was discovered by a group of North Vietnamese Regulars and forced to move to a secondary pick-up point. He hid in the jungle and headed for a river to evade his pursuers.

"I found this river, and I was gone," said Williams. "They weren't going to find me now.

"There is a comradeship between people who have been in combat that makes them part of a select fraternity," said Williams. "You don't know what will trigger you back to that time. Once you are fired upon and you are forced to return fire, it changes you forever.

"I don't know what those of you here were thinking when that first bullet came your way, but I can tell you that when I was digging myself under a rotted log, I thought two things - I have to make sure my mother knows that I love her. The other was - am I right with my Lord, because you are going to be in the hereafter a lot longer than you are going to be here."

Williams emphasized the importance of prayer and attributed his successes in life to prayer - the prayers of a loving family who taught him at an early age that he should commit all his decisions to God.