Don’t Forget to Remember

Photo courtesy of Beverly & Pack, flickr.com

“In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones, mean?’ tell them . . .” – Joshua 4:21–22 NIV

When three of our grandchildren were on different ball teams (plus one of them umpired), hubby and I were at the Punxsutawney Little League Fields just about every evening. After the sixth game in four days, I told Dean we should park our camper at the ball field.

Back then, the Punxsutawney Little League complex was almost a second home to us, as we spent many a summer afternoon and evening there when our youngest played baseball. Five well-maintained and lighted ball fields for Minor League, Little League, Senior Little League, what we call the “Teener League” field (VFW), and girls’ softball, are located beside Mahoning Creek. 

Each ball field is named for someone local. Some honor those who have devoted much of their time to maintain and improve the fields and the league. Two fields are named as memorials.

The Little League field is called the “Billy Titus Memorial Field,” named after a Punxsutawney Little Leaguer who was killed in a farming accident. 

The VFW League field, the Rich Kuntz Memorial Field, is named for SP4 Richard Lorraine Kuntz, who was killed in action in Vietnam on February 5, 1968, six weeks before his twenty-first birthday.

My grandson once asked me, “Who was Rich Kuntz? Why is the field named after him?” Since I’ve spent half a lifetime at the fields and know the stories behind the names, I was able to tell him. But it got me wondering: How many people drive right by those signs or even say the name of the ball field and don’t realize the significance?

Memorials are built and named so we won’t forget, so those who come after will learn of the sacrifice of the Vietnam soldier, the love a little leaguer who never got to play Senior League had for the game. 

This weekend we observe Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor and remember our military men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. 

Some died in action, some went missing in action and never were found, some died a slow death after they came home and tried to resume a normal life. Some are still alive, but they will never be the same. 

Sadly, these holidays that are set aside to remember and honor those who have stepped to the plate for our country are too often perceived as simply a day off work, to relax, catch up on things, feast and frolic. 

While there’s nothing wrong with any of those activities, let us not forget to remember why we observe Memorial Day.

On the way to the ball field, there’s a grassy field beside the road that’s covered with U.S. flags. Each time I passed it, more flags waved in the breeze. Then one day I slowed down to read the sign. Passersby are invited to place a free flag there in honor of a veteran.

I didn’t have time to stop then, but I made a special trip to that field and placed flags in honor of my loved ones who have served. 

What about you? What are you doing to remember this Memorial Day?

Thank you, Lord, for those who gave themselves to serve, protect, and defend our country. Let us never forget the sacrifices they made. Amen.

Read and meditate on Joshua 4.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Never the Same

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. –John 15:13 NIV

My father was wounded on the pitiful island of Attu in World War II. Shrapnel imbedded in his spine left him paralyzed, recuperating in a VA hospital for a year. He was never the same.

The spinal injuries he suffered defending a little spit of volcanic rock hanging on the tail end of the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska left him with recurrent back pain for the rest of his life. When the first symptoms of stomach cancer appeared thirty years later, he thought it was his troublesome back. By the time the cancer was discovered, it was too late. He died a month after surgery.

My mother was never the same. I was never the same.

War does that. It changes lives, steals dreams, shatters hopes. But the men and women who returned from World War II were stalwart characters. They got on with life, building families and communities. They were the first in line at the polls on election day, first in line at a Red Cross blood drive. They understood duty, loyalty, courage. They didn’t preach it, they lived it. Their priorities were—in order—God, family, country.

Dad refused to talk about the war. So when I discovered his Bronze Star hidden in a dresser drawer, I was surprised. I didn’t think Attu was significant enough to warrant a medal for bravery. One World War II writer described it as “the lonesomest spot this side of hell.”

But, unknown to the American public, for fifteen months—from early June 1942 to the mid-August 1943—US forces fought off a Japanese invasion in what one writer described as “arduous operations hampered by shortages afloat, ashore, and in the air . . . not to mention the almost insuperable obstacles of weather and terrain.” When it was all over, American casualties added up to 3,829 (25 percent of the invading force—second only in proportion to Iwo Jima): 549 dead, 1,148 injured, 1,200 with severe cold injuries, 614 with disease, and 318 to miscellaneous causes. The Japanese lost 2,351 men; only 28 were taken prisoner.*

Attu didn’t get much press. It was only as I looked up information for this column that I discovered the real significance of this historic battle.

We still were reeling from Pearl Harbor, as the Aleutian Island invasion took place a mere six months later. Perhaps it was to protect the public, to prevent a panic that news about the battle raging in the Bering Sea was blacked out. How many outside the military and the government knew at the time that the enemy was that close? Our military was tied up in Europe and the South Pacific. Little Attu paled in comparison.

Yet history would have been different had we lost Attu and the rest of the Aleutian Islands.

Never once in all his pain did my father ever complain or protest war. He knew the price that must be paid for freedom. Whether in Vietnam, Bosnia, or the Middle East, liberty’s price is the blood of our sons and daughters—no less than what God paid for our freedom from sin and its consequences.

Our eternal history would have been different had the battle for our souls not been waged and won two thousand years ago on a God-forsaken spit of land called Calvary. But this war, unlike human wars, changes lives for the better, restores dreams, and renews hope. Once we decide whose side we’re on, we are never the same.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 NLT). Thank you, thank you, thank you, God! Amen.

*Source: http://www.hlswilliwaw.com/aleutians/Aleutians/html/aleutians-wwii.htm 

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.