This boy grew up like most others of his day. He minded his dad and loved his mom. He studied hard, raced his bike on Seattle streets, and really loved his American Flyer train set.
He grew up and married his high school sweetheart, worked hard, became a dad and most every Christmas of my growing up years, that American Flyer train chugged its way around our tree. It climbed the trestle, then down through the tunnel and into the snow-covered village… made by his hands.
But before the marrying and dad parts of life could happen, he found himself thousands of miles from home in snow-covered villages that looked nothing like the one he’d created.
He had entered a fiery crucible in a frozen forest, along with the men of Company G.
That Christmas season of 1944, they covered the terrain of Belgium on foot, sometimes by truck, with wool overcoats for warmth and standard issue combat boots. No fancy survival gear there. No fancy anything.
But Dad never talked about those things. He never talked about his Purple Heart. And he never complained.
He just got up every day, went to work, paid the bills and built a good and peaceful life.
I’ve helped my folks move twice in the last few years and recently found this Bible. It’s a new testament with a metal cover, and stamped inside are words from President Roosevelt. I’m glad our nation hadn’t yet been infected by political correctness, because that small book changed the course of Dad’s life.
Dad didn’t grow up in a religious family, but while he was “over there” he carried the Bible in his breast pocket anyway…. “figured it couldn’t hurt”, he said.
From the tiny bits and pieces Dad shared of his story, I learned of the times he was pinned down in the snow… and the mortars that landed all around him. I heard about the ground shaking like an earthquake, trees cracking, splintering into a million pieces and his brothers in combat who died right next to him… day after day after day.
He said there were times of strange quiet too. And that is when he reached for his metal covered book and let God’s living word speak to him, breathe hope into him… bring salvation to him.
A new way of life was born in him and he lived it out in front of me. Out of a time of inexplicable horror, came a good and beautiful thing.
The service of our nation’s veterans, of my father, my own sons… challenges me every day. I am challenged to try a little harder and hang on a little longer. They teach me that something good remains even after the bad. And I’m thankful for whoever decided it would be good to place God’s word into a soldier’s hand as he headed into battle.
Dad and Mom live with us now. And Dad’s memories come and go. He fights a new battle in his mind, but this one, sadly, he will not win.
Sure hope he will remember.