As a barrage of bullets tore through the thick jungle overgrowth, Rich Dorsey and his 20-man infantry unit lie prone, pressing their bodies as deep as they could into the hot, soggy ground. Suddenly an object came sailing through the thick jungle canopy and landed near Rich. “Grenade!” he yelled to warn the others.
Rich’s infantry unit had been airlifted into the Vietnam jungle to clear a new landing site near the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, a winding network of paths used to supply Vietcong troops. Unknown to them, a regiment of several hundred enemy soldiers lay in wait, determined to stop them.
As Rich quickly rolled in the opposite direction of the grenade, he slid behind a tree stump. It saved his life. Bullets continued to whiz by, just inches over his nose. “I closed my eyes and began to pray but stopped when I realized I wasn’t praying to anyone I knew. I wanted to know God but didn’t know how, yet I felt a profound peace come over me.”
Rich said he didn’t fully realize just how spiritually lost he was until coming home in 1969 and hearing the gospel for the first time at the church of the girl who’d become his wife.
Asked to coach a women’s softball team, Rich recalled Bonnie, the pitcher, “threw me a curve that I couldn’t lay off.” As a young woman she’d been compelled by God to pray for a soldier in Vietnam. “She didn’t know that soldier would be her husband,” Rich added. They were married for 43 years.
Burdened with memories of seeing fellow soldiers getting killed or maimed, Rich remembered his own close calls for which he earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
He couldn’t find closure and suppressed any mention of Vietnam because vets (particularly frontline troops) were being vilified for their role in the controversial war.
A decade after the war’s end, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 1982 on Veterans’ Day. The event sparked the long-overdue thanks to these unsung heroes. Thirty-four years later, Rich was humbly honored to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at an annual ceremony at the Vietnam Wall.
Over the years Rich often has wondered why he was spared, not only through the war but through three brain surgeries. Intent on making a difference for Christ, Rich has been deeply involved in his church and found The Salvation Army a good fit to serve God and, worked in planned giving with the Western Michigan and Northern Indiana Division for nearly a decade before retiring nearly two years ago.
“God allowed me to see many victories through my ministry with the Army,” Rich concluded. “He used me to make a difference in the lives of those whose financial benevolence helped others.”