I am a husband, father and architect. I’ve been married to my second wife for 37 years and have two adult children and three grandchildren. I have been a licensed architect in California for the last 35 years and managed my own business most of that time. I have been involved in outreach and support of other veterans of Vietnam, World War II, Korea, Grenada and Desert Storm for the last 25 years. The resulting anger from the emotional wounds of combat and military service destroyed my life and my first marriage and almost destroyed my second marriage and family.
In 1967 I entered military service as a draftee during the Vietnam era. I went through basic and advanced infantry training and then was offered an opportunity to go through a special Noncommissioned Officers Leadership School that trained me in the skills needed to become an infantry squad leader. At the completion of this training I became a Sgt. E5. My military experience at this point started out to be a great opportunity for me to redeem my self-esteem that had been destroyed by my father during my youth. He had imprinted on me that I was “not good enough” or eligible to succeed. After NOC school I went to airborne training where I was placed in charge of my training platoon where the platoon took the top award. Again my military experience was rebuilding my wounded self-esteem. After jump school I was shipped out to Fort Hood, Washington for on-the-job training prior to being deployed to Vietnam. At Fort Hood my military experience took a dramatic change. My senior NCOs began to mistreat me and disrespect me in front of the subordinate troops under my command. At that time I endured this abuse confident that when I deployed to my combat unit in Vietnam things would be much different.
In August, 1968, I arrived in Vietnam and was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division as an infantry squad leader. On my first day in the field with my unit I found myself in charge of and responsible for a 12 man squad and was assigned to take that squad out from our defensive perimeter on a nighttime ambush. Welcome to Vietnam! But I was trained and ready to take on this new challenge in my life. It felt great! In the first weeks of my new command I relied on a very experienced corporal in my squad to keep me on the straight and narrow. This arrangement worked very well and he taught me a lot about being “combat wise”. But this was all about to change because I was about to experience my first contact with the enemy. In September 1968 our Battalion firebase came under attack by a North Vietnamese regimental size force. We were out numbered 4 to 1. In the middle of the night my platoon was called out of the firebase to go support another platoon under heavy contact with the enemy. While positioned on an elevated roadway adjacent to a rice paddy, our platoon caught a large enemy force unaware, between ourselves and the platoon we came to rescue. In the ensuing firefight my corporal who was laying next to me was wounded, not by enemy fire, but by friendly fire. The next day, having lost my corporal, I realized I was now on my own and things began to change drastically again.
With my corporal gone my platoon sergeant began to abuse me just like the senior NCOs at Fort Hood. I didn’t realize until then how valuable my corporal had been in keeping the heat off me. Now my platoon sergeant regularly belittled me and abused me in front of my squad. Why was this so devastating to me? There were two reasons. The first was that if the members of my squad didn’t trust me then possibly “combat morality” would take over and they would look for a way to eliminate me as a threat to them. This was not a safe place to be. And the second reason was that this was the way my father treated me and now, in Vietnam, my PTSD from youth was being triggered in a big way. At this time in my life there were many things going on inside of me emotionally that I just didn’t understand and chose to ignore. This was a very dangerous turn in my life because it would ultimately stay with me and the result would be destruction. We had a saying in Vietnam, “it don’t mean nothing”. We use this saying to deal with anything that didn’t make sense or was too painful to deal with like the death of a friend. After returning home from Vietnam I was dealt some additional heavy emotional blows, the worst being the death of my mother to cancer a year after returning home.
In Vietnam I knew who my enemy was. They wore uniforms and carried guns. On returning home I was completely ignorant that I was about to face another enemy that is common to all mankind. But I foolishly dealt with encounters with this enemy just like I dealt with emotional difficulties in Vietnam, “it don’t mean nothing”. This approach to difficulties of life got me nowhere. I was just trying to avoid pain in my life. But instead I had turned into a very desperate and angry person. My anger and rage was destroying many things in my life. After my first marriage failed and I had fallen into a very sinful lifestyle, I realized one day that I was not the man I wanted to be and it was time that I do something dramatic to straighten out my life. Where should I turn?
Having grown up in the church I had deeply rooted inside of me the understanding that God was the answer to difficult situations in my life. However, I had been numbed to that knowledge because many of my prayers seem to have gone unanswered. Why couldn’t God save my mother’s life? She was the only person that ever showed me unconditional love? Why did my wife walk out on me? Where was God in all this? At this time in my life when there were deep disappointments, I sensed a battle going on within me. Not an emotional battle but a spiritual battle between the forces of good and evil. I understood that a “dark spiritual force” was at work against me. So I made a simple prayer asking God to win the battle. The next day I responded to the message of an evangelist at the church I was visiting and gave my life to Jesus Christ and made him Lord. Even though I became a brand-new man spiritually, my life was a mess and the real battle was about to start.
It would be nice if I could say that everything was just fine after making Jesus Christ Lord, but that didn’t happen. Even though many things immediately improved in my life I still had many challenges to overcome. The foundation of who I was as a man was faulty and needed major repair. As an architect I have an intuitive understanding of the importance of a good foundation under any type of building. In the same way, it’s absolutely mandatory that our lives are built on a sound foundation from God. But my foundation had been built on 30 years of life experience that included a painful and dysfunctional childhood where I lost my mother at eight years old to a mental institution for one year, a very angry and abusive father and a learning disability that caused me to fail in school. Added to that foundation was the good and bad parts of my military experience. It amazes me sometimes how the bad things that happen to us in life can have so much more effect on who we are than the good things that happen to us. But God understands all of this and promises to “heal our broken hearts” and “set us free from captivity” of the bad things that have beset us in life and rebuild the foundation we are built on.
So how do you go about repairing faulty foundation? As an architect, I could draw you plans for that. The first step is to tear out the old foundation. Many times an existing building can be propped up while the old foundation is removed and a new foundation is placed under the supports of the existing building. God deals with us in a similar manner. He has been faithful to prop me up as a man as he works on rebuilding my “foundation”. Our Common Enemy had very cleverly spent years corrupting the foundation I had been built on. And so I embarked on a rebuilding program giving God the time that he needed to rebuild me as a man.
**This is an excerpt from Greg Izor’s testimony – next week, we will feature the second half of his amazing story of transformation and healing.