The story about a soldier using a deck of cards as a mnemonic device to remind himself of the Bible, set in the video above in the Vietnam War, goes back to 1778. Versions of the story have been set in the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Here is the Afghanistan version:
A young soldier was in his bunkhouse all alone one Sunday morning. It was quiet that day, the guns and the mortars, and land mines for some reason hadn’t made a noise.
The young soldier knew it was Sunday, the holiest day of the week. As he was sitting there, he got out an old deck of cards and laid them out across his bunk.
Just then an Army Sergeant came in and asked, “Why aren’t you with the rest of the platoon?”
The soldier replied, “I thought I would stay behind and spend some time with the Lord.”
The sergeant said, “Looks like you’re going to play cards.”
The soldier said, “No sir, you see, since we are not allowed to have Bibles or other spiritual books in this country, I’ve decided to talk to the Lord by studying this deck of cards.”
The sergeant asked in disbelief, “How will you do that?”
“You see the Ace, Sergeant, it reminds that there is only one God.
The Two represents the two parts of the Bible, Old and New Testaments.
The Three represents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
The Four stands for the Four Apostles: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The Five is for the five virgins, there were ten, but only five of them were glorified.
The Six is for the six days it took God to create the Heavens and Earth.
The Seven is for the day God rested after working the six days.
The Eight is for the family of Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives, in which God saved the eight people from the flood that destroyed the earth for the first time.
The Nine is for the lepers that Jesus cleansed of leprosy. He cleansed ten but nine never thanked Him.
The Ten represents the Ten Commandments that God handed down to Moses on tablets made of stone.
The Jack is a reminder of Satan. One of God’s first angels, but he got kicked out of heaven for his sly and wicked ways and is now the Joker of eternal hell.
The Queen stands for the Virgin Mary.
The King stands for Jesus, for he is the King of all kings.
When I count the dots on all the cards, I come up with 365 total, one for every day of the year.
There are a total of 52 cards in a deck, each is a week, 52 weeks in a year.
The four suits represents the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.
Each suit has thirteen cards, there are exactly thirteen weeks in a quarter.
So when I want to talk to God and thank Him, I just pull out this old deck of cards and they remind me of all that I have to be thankful for.”
The sergeant just stood there and after a minute, with tears in his eyes and pain in his heart, he said, “Soldier, can I borrow that deck of cards?”
Please let this be a reminder and take time to pray for all of our soldiers who are being sent away, putting their lives on the line fighting for us.
An interesting variant on this centuries old tale was set during the Korean War: The Red Deck of Cards:
It was during the last days of the prisoner exchange in Korea,
I was there as they came through Freedom Gate. Shattered, sick and lame.
There in a red cross tent as the weary group rested, a soldier broke out a deck of cards.
A look of hate crossed the tired face of one boy as he sprang up – knocking the cards to the ground.
As the cards lay around, many of them face up, he picked up the Ace and began.
“Fellows,” he said, “I’m sorry, but I hate cards.
The commies tried to use them to teach us their false doctrine.
They told us the “ACE”, meant that there’s one God, the state.
We knew that to be untrue for we were religious boys”
“And the “DEUCE” meant there were two great leaders.
Only two. Lenin and Stalin. And we couldn’t swallow that either.”
“And this “TREY” stood for three religious superstitions that the Reds would soon destroy.
The Catholic, the Protestants and the Jewish.”
This black “FOUR”, the soldier boy continued, stood for the four corners of the earth,
where the Hammer and Sickle would soon rein supreme.
There in that prison camp, far away from home, we hoped it was a lie.
And this red “FIVE”, was the five points in their Red Star.
Tears were streaming down the boy’s face, as he picked up the six.
And this “SIX”, the commies told us, stood for the sixth and final wars that America had luckily won.
The Revolutionary war, the war of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American war, WW1, and number six – WW2.
Now in this war, this cold war, America would be destroyed.
And the “SEVEN”, stood for our seventh foolish day, Sunday, which we wasted on our Lord.
The “EIGHT”, stood for the 8 hours every day we would have to spend learning to be, uh, progressive.
The “NINE”, for the cat-of-nine tails, lashed across our backs if we ever knelt to pray.
The “TEN”, was reminded us that out ten commandments, were ten stupid rules that only Capitalistic fools believed in.
That’s what they told us.
The “JACK” meant that Christ was a knave of uncertain birth.
The “QUEEN”, that maybe his mother was a non-virtuous woman.
And the “KING”, stood for our Lord God whom the commies told us didn’t not exist.
A dream, a fake, a joke. That’s what they told us.
The Heart stood for Christ’s blood, all shed in vain.
The Diamond signified the real precious jewel, the communist party.
The Club – the weapon of oppression with which they beat us.
And the Spade – a tool with which we would dig our own graves.
This was the Red Deck of Cards.
So you see fellows, the soldier boy said, that’s why I hate cards.
His buddies picked up the cards tore them into pieces and with shining faces,
walked arm-in-arm toward a simple chapel in Korea.
Go here to listen to the Red Deck of Cards performed by Red River Dave.
The story has a strong element of truth in it, in that for people who are religious anything can remind them of God. For those who are not, they could snore through the Sermon on the Mount.