Healing & Reconciling Enemies: By War & By God, an award-winning documentary directed and produced by Kent C. Williamson, captures both the tragedy of war and the beauty of service by introducing viewers to the work of the nonprofit group “Vets With A Mission.” Half a century ago, thousands of young American soldiers experienced life-altering events during the Vietnam War. After years of reconciliation, some of these veterans decided to take action by returning to the areas of Vietnam where they fought, restoring relations with the people, and serving Vietnamese communities by providing medical, dental and faith-based care.
Using powerful interviews and remarkable historical footage, By War & By God tells the stories of struggle, faith, and forgiveness lived through by several veterans and their families. The film also shows how selfless service to the Vietnamese people has become true service and healing to the veterans also.
The film first takes viewers through the experiences of several veterans, including stories of ambush, injury, and death. These experiences—which could move anyone to tears—paint the dark picture of war and reveal the painful effect it has on returning soldiers. However agonizing, the soldiers then transform their plight into experiences of light by turning to faith and service.
The veterans choose to serve by returning to the people they fought. As former enemies meet, speak, and ultimately embrace, years of indignation and confusion turn into bonds of friendship and love. In this manner, the group Vets With A Mission is able to transform the lives of thousands of people, both American and Vietnamese.
The film was released in September 2016 and is available to view via Amazon Prime, or you may rent or buy it through Vimeo. More information is available on the film’s website, especially the podcasts they have begun.
What does war do to a man? For several soldiers who survived the American combat in Vietnam, war changed them absolutely but not in the ways they could’ve ever expected.
While the Vietnam War waged for twenty years, the men who are now Vets with a Mission were irreparably changed by their service to their country. Through archival footage and the recounting of stories, these men explain what it was like to go to off seeking adventure a la Rudyard Kipling, only to watch friends fall in the midst of battle. Tortured and scarred by what they saw, several of these men refused to talk about combat, but all of them were clearly impacted.
And that’s where Kent Williamson’s documentary takes a strange turn.
Instead of being completely ripped apart by what they saw, these men, these Vets with a Mission, instead realized that they could draw each other together for a goal: to serve the people of Vietnam. But this service takes on several different ministries. First, the American soldiers sought out ways to be reconciled with Vietnamese soldiers, and second, they sought ways to improve the healthcare for the people in underserved areas of Vietnam. All of this is because they came to understood how they were called to feed the hungry or clothe the naked as they followed the leading of Jesus Christ.
While the Vietnam War is still one of the United States’ greatest tragedies, Vets with a Mission proves that triumph can come out of tragedy, that even those who have been hurt can choose how they will respond. With By War & By God, the audience is given several powerful testimonies about how the glory of God shines through the darkest times.
It’s hard not to ask yourself: are you sharing of your life and faith in a dramatic way? Are you making a difference by forgiving those who hurt you?
By War & By God is no average story. Instead, it’s the powerful way that God can change our hearts if we are passionately seeking Him. In fact, it’s a reminder that the good news of Jesus Christ can change the world.
Jacob Sahms, Contributing Writer
“By War and By God” is a fantastic documentary, which looks at the good deeds and differences the organization, “Vets with a Mission,” has made. Viewers will be touched by interviews with former vets, from the Navy, Army, and Marines, who have made peace with those they fought during Vietnam. Former enemies become friends and share in the healing. Various archive footage and videos are utilized to show the war of the past. Vets are interviewed, and many share how their Christian faith helped them heal from the war, which dealt many of them a blow. One soldier admitted to being fearful but added, “You have to look to God.” One vet talks about his best friend being killed while standing next to him, and one woman speaks of her mother receiving the news that her son was killed in an explosion in the air in a helicopter. One vet says, “We were just trying to stay alive.”
This wonderful organization has provided medical supplies, funded many life-altering surgeries, and has built 40 medical clinics. Various vets share their stories, including Roger Helle, Chuck Ward, Pat Cameron, and Dave Carlson. We are more than pleased to present “By War & By God” our “Faith-Friendly” Seal for ages 12-plus. It shows what the power of God can do to heal the rifts between former enemies, allowing them to become friends. One photo in the film makes a powerful statement, as it shows a man being baptized during the war. This documentary is well worth the 40-minute show time.
Edwin L. Carpenter