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.

Memorial Stones

 

These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever. – Joshua 4:7 (NIV)

Sept. 11, 2001, dawned clear and bright. Fall was in the air—in the coolness of the misty morning, in the hints of red, yellow and orange beginning to splash the hillsides, in the honking of geese winging overhead. America shut off the alarm clock, rolled out of bed, opened the curtains and let in the day. With coffee in hand, we set off to work.

By 9 a.m. our world had profoundly, irreversibly changed. By noon we’d gone from disbelief to numbing shock. By evening we vowed, “We will not forget!”

And we haven’t. One of the most tragic days in American history was also one of our finest. We looked in the mirror on that watershed day and said, “We are America.” And then we showed the world what makes America the greatest nation on earth.

America is a land of opportunity. We still open our arms to the tired, poor, huddling masses yearning to breathe free. To those homeless, tempest-tossed souls the lamp is still lifted beside the golden door. In every community modern day immigrants practice medicine, serve cultural cuisine, sell cars. Some are so desperate they sneak in. Don’t let anyone fool you. Opportunities abound in the home of the brave. But that isn’t what makes America great.

America is a land of prosperity. We have houses for our cars. We have closets jam-packed with clothes we grew out of or that we forgot we owned. We have winter clothes and summer clothes. We have footwear for every occasion. We have everyday dishes and good dishes. We have bank accounts, credit cards, investments, retirement plans. We have boats and swimming pools and RVs and motorcycles and four-wheelers and garages so full of stuff that we don’t have room for the car. We eat three square meals a day and then some. Diet and exercise businesses are booming. But our material wealth isn’t what makes America great.

America is the land of the free. We work and still have time to play. We race cars and horses and the clock. We are free to worship and work where we choose. We are free from want and, for the most part, from fear. We have homeless shelters and Homeland Security. We have soup kitchens and supersonic jets. We have policemen, firemen, EMTs, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the military protecting and aiding us. We can be whatever we want to be, go where we want to go. We can choose who, what, when, where, and how. We have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But freedom isn’t what makes America great.

What, then, makes America great?

Its generous heart, resilient spirit and can-do attitude. The Spirit of America born on the shores of Plymouth Rock nearly four centuries ago was found on Sept. 11, 2001, in the rubble that was the World Trade Center and in the wreckage of a plane that slammed into a Pennsylvania field.

Plymouth+Rock+%284%29.jpg (390×260)

On a memorial stone, those stalwart Pilgrims inscribed: “This spot marks the final resting place of the Pilgrims of the Mayflower. In weariness and hunger and in cold, fighting the wilderness and burying their dead in common graves that the Indians should not know how many had perished, they here laid the foundations of a state for which all men for countless ages should have liberty to worship God in their own way. All ye who pass by and see this stone, remember, and dedicate yourselves anew to the resolution that you will not rest until this lofty ideal shall have been realized throughout the earth.”

We will not forget Sept. 11, 2001. We will not forget that for a moment evil prevailed. We will not forget how, by the grace of God, we rolled up our sleeves and went to work, fighting that evil with goodness. We will not forget who and what we are. Let our memorial stones reflect the spirit of America.

God, bless America, land that I love. Amen.

Read and reflect on Joshua 4:1–9, 20–24.

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

People gather around stones that are part of a new 9/11 Memorial Glade on May 30 on the grounds of the National September Memorial and Museum after the Glade's dedication ceremony in New York. Set in a glade of trees during the spring 2019, the granite slabs recognize an initially unseen toll of the 2001 terror attacks: firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after exposure to toxins unleashed in the wreckage.

People gather around stones that are part of a new 9/11 Memorial Glade on May 30 on the grounds of the National September Memorial and Museum after the Glade’s dedication ceremony in New York. Set in a glade of trees during the spring 2019, the granite slabs recognize an initially unseen toll of the 2001 terror attacks: firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after exposure to toxins unleashed in the wreckage. (AP file photo)