Powerful Prayers by Larry King - Prayer & War

by Cindi Sutter, Founder of The Spirited Table®

This is an excerpt from Chapter 10 of the book - Powerful Prayers by Larry King with Rabbi Irwin Katsof. Foreword by Dr. Robert H. Schuller


Chapter 10 - Prayer and War - page 204-206 (parts of this excerpt contain graphic details of war).

In 1969, A NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD BOY NAMED JAN SCRUGGS was spending Memorial Day weekend in a Vietnam jungle, miles away from the provincial capital of Xuan Loc. His group had walked right into a North Vietnamese ambush with the Thirty-third NVA Regiment, and after four hours of fighting, thirteen of his guys were dead or wounded They remained under fire throughout the night and decided to move out the next morning. 

As they did all hell broke loose and the U.S. forces were pinned by continuous North Vietnamese fire. Scruggs remembers moving to another position just a few yards away, for some reason, and as he did a rocket-propelled grenade landed in the very spot he had been lying, leaving a crater two and a half feet deep by two and half feet wide. Seconds later there was an incredible explosion, throwing his rifle into the air. 

Jan Scruggs had wounds on his shoulder, back, and both legs. 

Whoever was shooting at us had pretty well zeroed in and I realized the firing was not coming from in front of us but from behind us. We were slowly being picked off, one by one. I lay there saying, “I can’t do this anymore.” I remembered someone telling me if you can move your feet after being hit, then chances are good you won’t be paralyzed. 

So I did that and then I prayed to God. I started saying I didn’t want to die in this terrible hellhole. It was just a place nobody would want to die in. Then I said the Lord’s Prayer, and when I finished the pain really started in on me. I said aloud, “F***!” But having been brought up Southern Baptist I knew that wasn’t a very good way to end a conversation with God, so I started apologizing. The next thing I knew I was being pulled through the jungle by my legs and placed behind some cover, and I woke up on a helicopter en route to medical treatment. 

While recovering from his wounds Scruggs found himself praying for his buddies in the field as well as for his family. He had prayed occasionally in the past, but now he was praying every night and sometimes during the day. Scruggs was quick to say that he doesn’t think the prayers after being wounded were any different or more significant than those before he was injured. To this day, however, he has a phone conversation every May 28 with a fellow who was also injured in that incident. 

After recovering from his wounds, Scruggs was back in action. More than one doctor told him he was lucky to be alive. In early January of 1970, with only two weeks remaining in his Vietnam tour, someone was working near mortar rounds when there was an explosion. 

Jan was the first to arrive at the scene where twelve of his friends lay dead. 

I could see men on fire—intestines, brains, body parts, and blood all over the place. And I’m looking at this and standing there with a single bandage that I always carried with me. So I scream for fire extinguishers and medics and I try to bandage one guy form Cleveland, but someone tells me he’s gone. A piece of shrapnel had gone right into his brain. That really damaged me. I realized right there that I wanted no part of it anymore. 

When Scruggs returned home from Vietnam he was angry over being placed in such an impossible-to-win situation by the American military and he was angry at God. He questioned his relationship with the Almighty for a long time after the war. He participated in what he called a God/prayer boycott.

The questions remained, but Scruggs started attending Protestant services at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, as a way of keeping in contact with “the Great Spirit” and he became a driving force behind the planning and implementation of the Vietnam Memorial.