He was young. Not too long out of high school. And he received a letter. Uncle Sam wants you. The draft. The US Army had called his number. It was the 50s and the Korean conflict was in full swing.
I’m not sure everything he did, but I do know a few things. He called his girl. And pretty soon, they were married. Then after their honeymoon, he got ready to report for basic. He stood in line to get on the bus and someone tapped on his shoulder. The uniformed soldier informed him that his grades exempted him and he could go to college if he preferred.
Young. Jobless. Homeless. Newlywed. And yet, he got out of line, moved in with his in-laws, and began a life that never again heard the call of the US Government.
That’s the story my dad tells me about him and his stint in the army. He was employed briefly at the Newport News shipyard and worked as an electrical engineer apprentice on aircraft carriers. But another call came.
Later my father would serve in another branch of the service. He would join the service of the ministry. He would pastor and preach and travel up until the month our Lord called him home.
Interestingly, he introduced us to many a military personnel. We lived near Norfolk, Quantico, and other bases. My mother worked at Ft. Belvoir a bit.
In my years, I’ve met many veterans who served in multiple branches and deployments.
I’ve met WW2 vets. Marines who island hopped in the pacific. They had nightmares of the brutality they witnessed. Then there was one who flew with the Flying Tigers over China. I got to talk with an Army Airborne who went in a day before DDay. And a soldier who landed on Normandy on DDay+1. My uncle served and help liberate a concentration camp (we think, he never really talked about it.) I know a widow who had a husband at Pearl Harbor on December 7. I had a friend who was a dentist in Italy. And another who was a tail gunner over Italy and also during the Korean conflict.
I know Korean and Vietnam conflict vets. One whose testimony of how Jesus appeared will give you shivers.
I have dear friends who’ve served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait.
These generations are passing away. Their stories are being lost as just memories that fewer and fewer know.
Like the WW2 vet who still had his Gideon Bible given to him by Churchill. And his story of a few days after DDay he saw French refugees on the outside of the quickly established army camp – and they were starving. He collected rations from his brethren and threw them over the fence for the French. An officer told him that was not allowed and then the officer walked away to let them finish what they started.
They served for multiple reasons. They followed orders they often didn’t understand. They gave up prime years so our country can stand and fight for liberty.
They forever have my gratitude. One day a year we honor those still with us. One day a year is not enough.