I asked my husband, Walt, what came to mind for him on Memorial Day?
It was the year 1945. World War II was nearing an end, but Don, 23 years old at the time, didn’t know that yet. He and three other men were scouting out a small town in Germany that morning. As part of a reconnaissance crew, it was their duty to go ahead of the troops and assess the enemy. As Don stuck his head around a corner, a blast from an enemy rifle took the bottom portion of his face right off and changed his life forever. As he lie motionless, unable to speak, his buddies left him for dead; his body to be picked up later.
It was a few days later, on a Sunday morning, that two soldiers arrived at the door of Don’s parent’s home in Power, Montana. Don’s father, a Lutheran pastor, was preparing for morning services, when the news came that his first-born son had died while serving in Germany. How strong was the faith that held him up while preaching his sermon that morning?
A couple of weeks earlier, Don’s father had written a letter to his son. As was his way back then, he wrote it in German. He told Don that each day, he asked God to watch over his son and keep him out of harm’s way.
When a German couple came upon Don’s body in that war-torn alley, they searched for his identification. They found a letter, smudged with dirt and blood, tucked into the soldier’s breast pocket. What must have gone through their hearts and minds as they read those words, in their native language? A young man’s eyes staring up at their faces, no doubt filled with terror and pain, but no mouth from which to utter a plea for help. By the grace of God, they gathered him up in their arms and took him to their home, where they sheltered him until he could be evacuated out.
What must that celebration have been like when two soldiers returned to that small parish house in Montana, but this time, with miraculous news!
Don was transferred to a veteran’s hospital in Menlo Park, California, where he spent months undergoing reconstructive surgery. It was there that he met his soon to be wife, even though fraternizing with the nurses was strictly forbidden!
And so it is, that a little boy, only eight years old, growing up in the small town of Power, wrote to his big brother who lie in a hospital bed so far away:
I and my girl went down to the reservoir ice skating the other day. We had fun ice skating. When we got home, our pants were wet. I hope you have a good Christmas. Have you got your box yet? That is all I can write. Walter (January 2, 1946).
So this story ends happily. But so many did not. My heartfelt prayers go out to all those families who have lost loved ones who have served in the armed forces. And to our troops who serve today, and to your families, thank you for your service and God Bless You!