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True Soldier Stories

"Courage is the ability to move; when all around you are frozen in fear
and no one would blame you if you did nothing at all." Capt. Click. Phx. PD

My Name is Lawrence J. Pearce

A Letter from a Soldier and Prisoner ...and my friend

And then
his warrior story and testimony

  I spent 2 years and 3 months at the Arizona Department of Corrections under the direction of the
Gila River Branch Prison Ministries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. September
the 27th, 2003, was my last day. In the LDS-poem section of this site, "Brother to Brother" it tells of
my first day in prison. It was an eye-opening experience I didn't expect nor will ever forget. I probably
gained more understanding about the Atonement and true brotherly love serving at the prison than
all my years prior to that time. The Scriptures remind us that we are not to pass judgment on others
as judgment belongs to the Lord Himself. I know there are bad men in prison but I also know there
are good men who have just done bad things. There is a difference. I also know the Savior loves
these men and reaches out to them for I have been there and have felt of His love for them.

The following Tuesday, September the 30th, I received two letters. One from a non-member inmate
by the name of Lawrence Pearce. It touched me so very much because Lawrence was always a quiet
man. Because he was so quiet, he was not well known to me, yet even so, I could see and feel he was
a gentle man. Even a good man. I watched him with others and with his wheelchair bound friend,
Danny, as he wheeled Danny to and from our LDS services each week.

Inside me, I've always seemed to have a special gift that allowed me to know what kind of person
was inside the person I was talking to or was around. I depended on this gift a lot during my police
career. I used it constantly to better judge people and situations and what needed to be done. As a re-
sult of this special gift, many times I swung my sword as hard as I could swing it, sparing nothing at all
as it cut into the life of the person I was dealing with. This, if I felt the person I was talking with was
evil inside or even deserving. But more often than times like that were times where I felt to keep my
sword sheathed instead and to extend mercy and to talk with the person as brother to brother and
counsel them with feelings and words I felt from the Holy Ghost. But again, only if I got that
certain feeling about them. That, inside they were good.

This was the feeling I always got when I was around Lawrence. The Holy Ghost always bore this
same witness to me that Lawrence was good inside. When I got this unexpected letter from him just
4 days after my last day, it touched my heart so much I shared it with our Stake President, President
Kevin F. Smith and those I serve on the High-Council with in our Stake. This is that e-mail and letter.
This story is about a soldier, a prisoner, a good person  ...and my friend  ...Lawrence J. Pearce.

Dear Brethren,
Yesterday I received 2 letters from 2 prisoners. Both were very personal and mean a great deal to me. One is from a non-member who was always fairly quiet, not saying anything unless asked. I share some (much is too personal, even too sacred to me to share) of that letter only because the Holy Ghost prompts me to share parts of it with you. So, while I should be in bed sleeping, I begin instead with a prayer and follow the dictates of the Holy Ghost. 
"Dear Brother Jeppsen,
"Very few people over the years have ever inspired me. One was Billy Graham. He believed the word of God and he could start talking and people listened. They listened because, not his name, his spirit, his openness, his devotion and his message. I met one other person who gave such inspiration. The irony being, I'm in prison and he is, or was, a cop, now retired. ...many of us here because of our ages and our sentences have little or nothing left to look forward to in this life. We survive only one day at a time. When we get up in the morning it means we have one more day. Yet in all this madness I found something that gave me hope. I haven't the faintest idea of what's going to happen to me and for the longest time I didn't care. Maybe I still don't really forgive myself. It's hard to do that. 
"...It's always been hard for me to express my feelings about anything and today I discovered there's going to be less of a bright spot in my life without seeing you at our meetings on Saturday...
My mother was an alcoholic, my father an alcoholic and womanizer and my older brother, well we never did get along. I spent my youth following him through schools with all the teachers he had, telling me 'Why can't you be more like him?' I joined the service as soon as I was old enough and found myself in the middle of more confusion than I did at home. After two separate tours in Nam, I was a total moral, physical and spiritual wreck. Over the years since returning from Nam and being spit-on and called such heart wrenching names, I began to believe in my heart I really was as no good as they said. For years I searched for something I could not find because I never knew until recently what I was looking for. I was looking for love and someone to love but I never knew what love was; maybe I still don't.
"After three wives and three ruined families, I still had no idea why, if there was a God, did I have to be the one to suffer through so much. The very first gal I ever loved was killed while I was at Parris Island on the way to night duty at the hospital as a student nurse. Riding with a girlfriend who was driving through a snow storm and in a hurry, she tried to beat a fast moving freight train. The other girl didn't suffer a scratch. Betty was mangled beyond recognition. Probably the only person I ever really came close to in all my life.
"It took me 16 years and three trips to Washington before I finally found the courage to go to the wall. I found many names and cried many tears and could never get over the guilt of surviving when they didn't. Thirty-five years later I'm still haunted at night by those memories. I can't ever forget them.
"All my life I've never believed in much of anything. For me it seemed pointless. My life has been pointless, my whole world, pointless. There was no one in my world but me, no room for anyone but me.
"Then [in prison] I started coming to LDS services with Danny...
He goes on Brethren, talking about the feelings he felt. The inspiration, the true brotherly love he felt and more. At one point he says, "No matter how much I was able to understand and learn at our Saturday meetings, my heart, my spirit, my soul, seemed to rise to new heights..."
Brethren, I am so grateful for the Lord and I love Him with all my heart. I cannot express in words the depth of my love for Him and for what He has done for me personally and for all of us collectively. May we, all of us, in everything we do and everywhere we go, pray to always have the Light of the Lord with us that we may lift the spirits of those around us. May they know that we love the Lord with all our hearts and may they feel and see by the look in our eye that we love them. Truly love them. May they feel like better people for having known us. May we forget about ourselves and may our enthusiasm for the gospel be felt by others and may our light so shine that it leads the way for others and glorifies our Lord and Savior and our Father in Heaven.
Have a great day and a great conference, Brethren.
"All evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing"
                                                 Edmund Burke

I wrote to Lawrence, telling him that I had shared his letter with our Stake President and our High-Council and that I had posted it here on, I asked if it was okay with him that I had done that. Being my friend, he wrote back and in part of his reply, he shared one of the stories he eluded to in his first letter. The very personal experience of when he and his squad were shot down over, or perhaps more accurately stated, near Vietnam.

                                              His heart touching story
                                   is not only an amazing warrior story,
                                                     it is an amazing testimony of God.

The True Soldier Story
and The Testimony of God

of former
Sergeant, Lawrence J. Pearce
United States Marine Corp

My generation, the so called, "Baby-Boomers" grew up in an era when we were all trying to build some kind of bomb shelter in our cellars to survive the nuclear holocaust we were sure was imminent. Somehow we survived those days and me and two of my high school friends decided that we were going into the service to be part of the best, "the lean green fighting machine" formally known as the U.S. Marine Corp. After basic training, we were separated and because my tests scores showed I was above average, I went through a lot of intense schooling and training. From electronics to advanced electronics to ECCM (electronic counter-counter measures) and three different survival and infiltration schools.

                   I had no idea where I was headed but I was convinced
                                that now I was one of the best of the best.
                                            We were invincible.  ...We were going to Vietnam. 

Our four man teams were doing insertions and extractions or assisting in them or doing things we couldn't talk about but were ordered to do. Our service records showed we were in Vietnam but everything else was listed under a classified document with a code name and number. We were there but, we weren't.

Our OPS orders came by officer courier and always arrived at the last minute. On this particular mission, we were flown south to Saigon and we transferred our gear to two choppers. We headed west and then north from Saigon. We crossed one of those lines on the map which according to policy was a definite "no-no." But according to our mission orders we had to cross to accomplish our mission. To this day, I wonder if our missions ever really accomplished much. But back then, with the adrenaline flowing in our young, early twenties bodies, we believed we were invincible.

Fourteen missions and we hadn't been detected or hit once.

About twenty clicks from our objective, we were hit. No SAM's, but there was enough flack you'd  have thought you could walk on it. The pilot banked sharply to the left just as a shell exploded near the door on the right. Jones got it in the face and Smith got it under his flack jacket and went down in a heap. The pilot was in bad shape and the co-pilot was hit but flying like you wouldn't believe. I took one in the leg from a machine gun and went down pretty hard. Edwards checked Smith and Jones. "They're dead, Sarge," he said. Even with a tourniquet on my leg, I was loosing consciousness from the loss of blood. How we managed to get out of there was to me a miracle. The second chopper with us had been blown out of the sky when the flack first started. The crew and team were killed. We had two dead and a pilot close to it.

So much for being invincible. 

I woke up in the hospital two days later, trussed up and strapped down to a bed. In my half conscious mind, I began remembering some of the terrible things we'd seen over the past few months that others who hadn't been there would never believe. I was in and out of consciousness for another two days, thinking about the pilot, co-pilot, Smith, Jones, and Edwards. Edwards, I found out later, was wounded severely in the back. The co-pilot was too. I began wondering about what went wrong. I began to have doubts about everything: the war, even myself.

In Nam, there were three kinds of people; those who were coming; those who were leaving; and those who stayed. You learned to make acquaintances, not buddies and certainly not friends. It was easier to carry the body bag of someone you didn't know than to feel the gut-wrenching pain of carrying a friend.

One afternoon, the chaplain came to see me and see if there was anything he could do. I asked if he could check on everyone for me and I gave him the names. He told me he'd already written a letter for Smith and that the pilot was doing well and that Edwards and the co-pilot were also doing good. I asked about Jones. The chaplain got a funny look on his face, then told me what had happened. Jones was in the back of the ambulance with Smith and both were ready to be transported to the airstrip to be flown to Danang for the processing of soldiers who had been killed in action when one of the medics ran into the hospital and grabbed a doctor and told him one guy in the ambulance was still alive. The chaplain told me Jones, who everyone thought to be dead, was still alive. No one except Edwards had checked him.

In shock, all that came out of my mouth was, "Jesus!" The chaplain said that he thought that indeed Jesus had played a very important part in Jones's survival. He told me Smith was needed by God elsewhere and that it just wasn't time for Jones to leave because God had other plans for him.

                              If I had to describe my feelings
                                        toward the Church and God at that time,
                                                    I would have used the word: Agnostic.

It was two weeks later before I got to visit Jones. He was still in bad shape but he was going to make it. He was alive. When I saw him, he said something to me that struck my soul to it's very foundation. His voice was hoarse and barely above a whisper so I had to ask him to repeat what he said. His words were,

                             "Sarge, I know you don't believe, but I saw Him!"
                                           I asked "Who?"  And he whispered,
                                                                           "I saw Him!  ...I saw God."

A lot of things have happened to me in my life since then. Some good, some not so good and some pretty bad. I lost track of Jones after the war and I don't know whatever happened to him but every now and then when things seem out of control for me, out of the depths of depression, I remember Jones and his three words,

"I saw Him!"

I think the chaplain was right when he said that God had other plans for Jones. God wanted him to tell me, "Yes, my son, I'm here." Today, I know God has a plan for me. I don't know what it is but He has me figured out, even if I don't. Perhaps one day, I'll fully understand God's plan in sending me that message, but until then,  I've come to believe that it is Him that keeps tabs on all of us, even in our darkest and blackest of hours, wanting, waiting with infinite patience to show all His children His love. My health is such, I won't leave this place physically. But it won't matter because when I leave spiritually I know my soul belongs to God.

I really know that now.

The names Smith, Jones and Edwards are fictitious names of course, because even now, some things are still classified. But it was 16 years later that I finally gained enough courage to go to Washington and see, "The Wall". I found Smith's name and I cried for him and I cried for others whose names I found and for those whose names I didn't find. In high-school, I had four really close friends. I left three of them over there. To me and many-many others, Vietnam was a shattering experience that forever changed our lives.

In school I read a poem called "High Flight" by John Gillespie McGee in which he talked of a pilot soaring high above the surly bands of earth, above the windswept clouds and when he got there he reached out and touched the face of God. A chill runs down my spine every time I read that poem. It was exactly the same chill I got when Jones said those three words,

"I saw Him!"

Today, as I sit here, I know that in my passing I too will see Him as Jones told me he had and I too will be able to reach out and touch the face of God as John Gillespie wrote. I believe this because something inside tells me it's true. 

                                To all those who have doubts,
                                        I can say that it is possible to abandon God,
                                               but God will never abandon you.
                                                      He will always be there.

                          In Spanish, there is a three word phrase said between friends.
                 It has such a deep meaning and now I say it to you,
                                                            I would my friends.

                                                      "Via Con Dios,"

(Go with God)


High Flight

                             Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
                                    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
                             Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
                                    Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
                             You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
                                    High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
                             I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
                                    My eager craft through footless halls of air.
                             Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
                                    I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
                             Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
                                    And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
                             The high untrespassed sanctity of space
                                    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

At the beginning of WWII, when America was still "neutral" John Gillespie Magee Jr.,
went to Canada to volunteer to fly in the RCAF. He was trained, activated and sent to
England to serve in the newly formed 412th Fighter Squadron. While flying over France,
fighting the German Luftwaffe for England, on September 3, 1941, he wrote the first part
of this poem at 30,000 feet. He finished it soon after he landed and sent it to his family
back in the States. Just three and a half months later, on December 11th, 1941,
at the young age of 19, he was shot down and killed.

                                              God bless our soldiers
                                       ...and the families they leave behind.



If you are or were a police officer, soldier, fireman
or wife, mother, father of such or some other branch of emergency personnel
and would like to share an unusual testimony building experience with others,
please contact us for details at

or use the link on the front page of this site at

Thank you and God bless,


"Think About it..." mailed to your home for only $14.95   S&H included

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