After Vietnam: Okinawa, Home, and Camp Lejeune

Marine Corps barracks in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

Looking back at my Vietnam experience, there is one thing that I keep thinking about: the fact that God was watching over me and keeping me from harm. As I previously wrote, I put in for a transfer from my first infantry unit to go to a village unit, because I thought I would have a better chance of being involved in battle. Well, as it turned out, I was in no battles at all in the village unit. And I also found out from a friend that the unit I had transferred out of, at hill 52, had been almost overrun by the Vietcong, and many of the Marines there were killed. So, as it turned out, all the action I took to put myself in harm’s way, God seemed to turn it around to put me in a safe place. That has made me wonder what God has in store for me. What purpose does He have for me?

After Vietnam I was to be sent home for just a week; and then, after that, I had 6 more months to serve on the Marine base in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. But my first stop was Okinawa. I had a large duffel bag full of clothes and uniforms locked up safe in a storage ben there—so I thought. As it turned out, after looking for a while, the supply clerk told me that there was no duffle bag there with my name on it. Of all the luck. I had a brand-new set of dress blues in that bag that I never got a chance to ware. I wouldn’t have felt so bad about it if the clerk would have been just a little sympathetic toward me. He didn’t seem to care, nor did he seem the least bit interested in trying to recover my stuff. Well, so much for that. I put it out of my mind. Next stop, Minneapolis.

When I arrived at the airport in Minneapolis, I didn’t bother to call home. I just took a taxi home. It was about noon and my mom came to the door. She was quite surprised and glad to see me. For some reason I don’t remember too much during my week off at home. Things were a little different with my mom. She had recently divorced my dad, and so, I hate to say it, but everyone was feeling relieved and more at peace. I suppose the only thought my mom had about the divorce was that she probably wished she’d divorced him sooner. I think we all had the same feeling.

I don’t remember clearly how things were with me and Joy, but I think during this week was when I saw her one last time. I did love her, but I knew the relationship was wrong or would not work. Yet I kept praying for her salvation.

My week off at home went by fast and I was back with Marines again, in a new Marine unit in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I had only 6 more months to serve, and I was a little surprised by what they had me do: more combat training. Why? Why was I put in a training unit when I just got back from Vietnam? Well, I can’t remember if I ever asked any of my commanders that question; but I reasoned…what else would Marines do? A Marine trains for war and goes to war. That’s his purpose. Possibly they may have expected that I would re-enlist. In fact, at the end of my two-year enlistment they offered me a promotion if I would re-enlist. I said no. I had been to Vietnam so what else was there for me to do?

My High School Years: Hi-C Club

When the bus could’t go any further, this is how we got to our destination at Arrowhead Springs
I am in the upper right corner.

Hi-C actually started in Junior High, as I have already written about. But it continued into high school. I am so thankful to God for this group, because it kept me excited about my Christian life. And one of the verses that I remember using during that time was John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Yes, I think Hi-C for a me was all about living the abundant life in the midst of so much pain and turmoil at home, and also in the classroom—I just wasn’t a very good student.

I think God was using Hi-C, along with sports, to get me through life at that time; otherwise I think I would have been very depressed. The first thing I remember about the club was our trip to Arrowhead Springs, Colorado (pictured). I don’t remember a lot, just that it was a great motivator and I felt so much joy being around other believers. It was like experiencing a small bit of heaven.

Similarly, I remember our city-wide rallies. Hi-C wasn’t just in my high school. It was in several high schools in Minneapolis. Jerry Kaufman was a God-send for the rallies—a great motivator. Anyway, we would have city-wide rallies about once a month, and Jerry Kaufman, with his accordion, would lead them. It was mainly a time of singing Christian songs; and we also usually had a special speaker that would give a gospel presentation. Oh, we also had plenty of time to play games and be rowdy. And now that I think of it, there were also city-wide hay rides and other events.

This is Gary.

I think I actually made more friends from other schools, through the city-wide events, then from my school at West High. And I went to great lengths to keep those relationships going. I remember having to ride the bus for very long distances, using two or three transfers to get to places. And it was worth it. I often visited my friend Gary Westlund. He became sort of a mentor to me. I remember when we would team up and go witnessing at Lake Calhoun beach. It was always me and Gary.

The Hi-C Club at West was a much smaller group. I was elected President, and we also had two secretaries and a treasurer—so I guess we were fairly organized. Anyway, we had weekly meetings where we would usually invite a speaker. I remember that one of our regular speakers was Mr. Baxter, who was a teacher and a coach at West. Everyone liked him.

Our intention in the group was not just to have fun. We set out to invite as many as we could from school to group meeting so that they would eventually find Christ.  I’m not sure how many that was, but there were a few. I sometimes wonder where they all are right now. I know that many have been greatly influenced by Hi-C just as I have been. I don’t have many pictures, but I do have several writings in my year books that have mentioned Hi-C, and they usually signed off with “In Christ,” or even “Love in Christ.” Those were the days. I pray that they are still going on for the Lord as I am.  

My High School Years: The School and Classes

This is West High school. I took this picture from my year book.

West High school was torn down not long after I graduated, in 1969, to make room for condominiums. I always thought that it was a great looking school and I was sad to hear that it was demolished. I couldn’t understand why. It seemed to be just as sturdy as any of the other schools in the city that were of the same age, many that are still standing to this day.

This is Lake of the Isles, a great place to walk or run.

West had a great location. Hennepin Avenue, the standard bus route, that I took to school, goes right by the front of the school. Right across Hennepin Avenue, from the school, was the famous Thirty-One Flavors ice cream parlor. Then, if you were to walk only two blocks from the back of the school, you would run into Lake of the Isles, where you can always see people walking and running around it on the lake’s winding paved path. I often would come there to run. It’s about a 2 ½ mile jog all the way around, and its great scenery made it a great place to get a workout.

I loved the inside of the school; it was so majestic looking. The grey marble floors and the wide marble stairway made you proud to attend. The only negative memory I have of the school was trying to remember where all my classes were. And sometimes, because the school was to big, I had to run between classes to make it on time. I still have bad dreams of that—and also of not remembering where my locker was or remembering the combination.

As far my classes and the teachers, I’m sad to say that I don’t have too much of a memory of any of it. The classes that I liked best were art class and woodworking class, I suppose because you didn’t have to read anything. It was mainly just working with your hands. I think that I have always been naturally skilled in those areas. I do have some memory of other classes and the teachers, not so much because of their teaching, but for other reasons. I remember my history teacher because of the way he scribbled wildly on the black board; he was so funny. I also remember the time when he stopped and gave me a ride to school. I think I had missed the bus. Anyway, be stopped and gave me a lift. His driving was as wild as his teaching. I will never forget it.

I remember my English teacher only because she looked attractive to me. I think I tried really hard in her class, but because my reading comprehension was terrible, I did very poorly. I don’t think I ever got above a D grade.

I remember my math and biology classes because the teachers were both football coaches. Coaches were much more memorable to me, maybe because they seemed to talk straight at you, and they seemed to care more.

I remember band the most. I played the trombone, and for part of the time I was the only trombone in the band. My fond memories of band practice I’m sure was just because I loved music and love making music. Sometimes it was hard playing all the notes as written, but when it finally came together, it was so rewarding and made me feel good. And when any of the music pieces had a special trombone part, I knew it was my time to shine—and sometimes I tended to ham it up a bit!

Well, that’s all for this part. Next time I will write about my favorite thing—sports.

8th and 9th Grade: The Good and the Bad

After 7th grade, where I lived in Montevideo, we moved again, back to Minneapolis. I think I remember that my dad wasn’t doing too well and spent some time in a mental hospital. Meanwhile, my mom was working full time as a secretary and us kids were fending for ourselves.

I don’t remember how it all happened, but I got involved with a Christian group called Hi-C Club. It was a Jr. High branch of the Campus Crusade for Christ group in Minneapolis. I remember our first meeting in the home of one of the girls in the group. We all, about a dozen of us, sat in the living room waiting for the leader to arrive. He was about ten minutes late and came huffing and puffing to the door, saying that he had run all the way. Strange guy. He ran everywhere. Anyway, he gave his testimony about how he came to Christ, and he got us all excited about the group and about being Christians. Looking back on it, that group was just what I needed at that time. It was my first introduction to Christianity since I received Christ a year ago at camp.

We not only did bible studies; we did a lot of fun activities and games. And when one of the leaders challenged us to do beach evangelism, I jumped right in. We memorized a booklet called the Four Spiritual Laws, and then we headed for the beach on Lake Calhoun. It was so scary at first, but after a few encounters, me and my buddy Gary really got into it. Of course, the thing that excited us was the few converts we got. People were actually praying to receive Christ!

The junior high school, Jefferson Jr. High, was about ten or twelve blocks away. Instead of taking the bus, for some reason my mom wanted us to walk to school. It took a long time, over half an hour. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to lug my trombone with me all the time, but I had to bring it home because I had to practice.

Playing the trombone was probably the thing I liked best about 8th and 9th grade. I was in the band and the instructor gave all of us free lessons. He was hard on us—on me, but I learned how to play, and I loved playing in the band. The band wasn’t that good, but we sure had fun. One of the things the band instructor would always tell me was that I was playing too loud! But I couldn’t help it. That’s the only way I knew how to play.

At the time, I was going to a Presbyterian church just two blocks away. It was a little different than what I was use to—like free churches, Baptist churches, and even charismatic churches. So, you can imagine that this Presbyterian church was different, more formal or liturgical. But I didn’t mind.

My Sunday School teacher was also the church basketball coach, and I was on the team. I didn’t make too many points, but I was fairly good at defense. And anyway, it didn’t seem to matter that much to the coach. In fact, he had more than just basketball on his mind. He was out to befriend us. I later found out that he was a pervert, or a pedophile. But at the time I really didn’t know what to think of him. A couple of times he had me and another guy (a fellow basketball player) over to his house for the night. For some reason he chose me to share his bed. I had no idea what he was up to until he did it to me. And then I still wasn’t sure what happened. Living on the farm, away from everything, I had really been sheltered, and no one told me anything about sex. I kind of knew that what happened to me was wrong, yet at the same time I wondered if it was normal—if it was just something every boy would go through.

One fall, I think it was in October, the coach took me and this same player for a week long camping trip in Lake of the woods. It would have been so much fun and a great adventure if it hadn’t been spoiled by what he did to me during the night—as before. Again, I asked myself, was this normal? (years later I found out that my brother Mark had been abused by this same guy. He too was in his Sunday School class. And I heard that when my dad found out he was furious. Evidently, he had been doing this to boys for years and getting away with it.)

Well, wouldn’t you know it, a few months later, in the summer time, some kids from our Christian group had a swimming party. I can’t remember all the details of what happened, but, as I remember, the guy I got a ride with couldn’t give me a ride home and said I could ride with these old guys that he knew. Anyway, on the way back they stopped at their place, and they offered me a drink. I didn’t know what it was, but it sure hit me hard. After a while the whole room was spinning around and they were laughing. I couldn’t see straight and I couldn’t walk. And they led me, and sort of dragged me, to a bedroom and forced me down onto a bed. One of them had his way with me and I could hear that the other guy was in the room too. In a way I was kind of thankful to be drugged, because it kept me from knowing exactly what when on—though I remember some of it.

Thank God, it only lasted a couple hours and then they took me home. The next day I went for a long run in an attempt to clean out my system, and I’m sure I was praying along the way. I think I had come to realize that what had happened to me, both with my Sunday School teacher and with these old guys, wasn’t at all right or normal. The devil was after me. He wanted to destroy my life. That’s the last time I was abused by anyone; but it was just the beginning of what Satan had planned for me. Though I was a child of God and eager to serve Him, I could sense that Satan was constantly after me to destroy me in one way or another.

Visiting Grandparents, Part 2

This is grandpa and grandma Anfinsen celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

My grandparents on my mom’s side were a lot different than my grandparents on my dad’s side. Grandpa was a house painter for the first few years of his work life; and then, when he was about forty, he began working in the Minneapolis Post Office until he retired. I think what people most remember about Him was his dedication to Christian ministry. In his younger years he would travel around and sing gospel songs in a men’s group, and my mom would play the piano. She was only about 16 or 17; of course, I wasn’t born yet, but I heard about it and have seen pictures.

My grandpa was also a fill-in preacher. But I think his biggest mission was what he did with Christian literature. He and a few others would meet regularly and box up and send used and slightly damaged books and literature overseas to missionary groups and churches all over the world. I helped out one time and I was quite impressed by how much literature they were able to get—which was donated from Christian book stores, and groups such as the Billy Graham Association.

Grandpa and Grandma Anfinsen moved a few times, but the place I remember most was their house in Minnetonka, Minnesota, right on Lake Minnetonka. I remember that house so well, and grandpa saying that Rosie (or grandma) wanted a pink house. So he painted the entire house bubblegum pink. He also painted the garage pink and the fence around the house pink, and even the fishing barge pink. Grandma loved it! And she loved flowers; she planted mostly pink ones all around the house, and the garage, and along the fence, and around the trees. It was plain to see that grandpa and grandma loved each other—just by the way they looked at each other and how they talked to each other.

Every summer they invited all the relatives (about 50, on my mom’s side) over to their home just to sit and visit and eat. There was always plenty of room in the back yard, and it was beautiful with all the flowers. And for the kids, grandpa or uncle Marv would break out the croquet set. And then later in the afternoon grandpa would fire up the barge motor to go fishing. The pink barge was quite large, about 20 feet square. Grandpa made it himself. It was a simple floor with a fence around it; and under the floor were 60-gallon drums that made it float. Fishing was always good. We never caught any big ones, like Northerns or Walleyes, but we always caught plenty of Crappies and Sunfish—with worms.

Christmas time was always special, and it was the tradition to meet at grandma Knutson’s house in Minneapolis. That was my grandma Anfinsen’s mother. Grandma loved to see everyone; and she was funny, and would love to laugh and talk to the kids, and to remind them to be good! She was all Norwegian and had a strong Norwegian accent.

The thing I remember most about Christmas at grandma Knutson’s house was when all us kids, about a dozen of us, would go wild in the basement and run around and around the furnace. I must have been very young then, about 6 or 7. I also liked all the sweet foods laid out on the tables—all the Norwegian sweets like krumkake and lefsa.

The last thing we all did was gather around and sing carols—and opened gifts. Grandpa would always take charge of announcing and leading the songs, and leading the devotional and prayers. And the way he led, and what he said, and the way he said it was always so inspirational. You could tell he was so proud of his family; and you also knew he was so dedicated to God.

Later in life grandpa and grandma moved to a smaller house in Ortonville, Minnesota; and again, on a lake. And I didn’t see them much anymore. And the most touching thing was when they died. Both of them died almost at the same time, only a few hours apart. Everyone said that that was so fitting; for just as they were always together in life on this earth, they left this earth in the same way—together.