By Trisha Coder
For 10 Whitworth students, the 2019 Jan Term program in Vietnam offered a rare chance to learn about one of the most infamous wars in America's history. For the Whitworth alum and Vietnam veteran who accompanied them, the trip offered a chance to heal tormenting wounds.
Professor of History Dale Soden, who led the program, asked alumnus Tim Lickness '73 to accompany the class. Lickness had served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. During the war, he was the platoon leader for the elite Screaming Eagles paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division. On June 15, 1968, he witnessed the deaths of all eight members of his squad. The Jan Term program was his first return to the country since the war.
On this trip, Lickness spoke with two Vietnamese veterans, one of whom had written a book about the war and shared it with the group.
"You don't get the chance obviously every day to see two people who had been at war with one another and were trying to kill one another sit down, hear each other's stories, and then shake hands and embrace," Soden says. "It was very, very moving."
While the meetings brought Lickness a sense of peace, he says an unexpected conversation the third day of the trip changed his life. For years, he'd been asking God to take away his nightmares so he could sleep.
"I felt an encounter with God," Lickness says. "He said, 'You know, Tim, I understand what you're asking for, but you're praying for the wrong thing.' Just like a father would counsel his son. It was really gentle. And he said, 'You don't need to confront your demons. You need to confront me. We need to have a conversation, so let's just spend the next two weeks talking to each other.'" They did. That night, Lickness slept soundly, as he has every night since.