A Truth to Remember ©

On this 4th of July I pause to invite us to reflect on a truth to remember. Consider the lessons of time some 70+ years in the past.  In June of 1942 the islands of Attu and Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands were invaded and occupied by soldiers from the Empire of Japan. It was the only part of the United States that was occupied by the enemy in World War II. In some of the harshest fighting of the war, U.S. Naval forces fought a desperate battle in high seas and then in May of 1943 Marines retook the Island of Attu; followed later by the conquest of Kiska.

As Naval and Marine forces regrouped following the successful campaign, reinforcements were rushed to the Aleutian Islands. Among the reinforcements was a young Ensign freshly graduated from Officers’ Candidate School in Plattsburgh, New York. Just 8 or 9 weeks earlier the college women (then inappropriately called “girls”) at Plattsburg State Teachers College (now the University of New York at Plattsburg, part of the SUNY system) held a dance for the sailors who had finally reached the point where they were allowed some leave. One of those young women did what her mother had warned her not to do. She fell in love with a sailor. A day or so before the Ensign shipped out, at their last date together, he proposed.

At his heart ever a romantic, the young sailor with brand new shiny ensign bars said, “Consider yourself proposed to.” She replied, “No, let’s wait and make sure you come back.” To this day, now 91, the college coed insists she did not offer the reply in a lack of love but rather wanted to help him face the danger before him and not feel encumbered or tied down. Her response was a response of love in a time of crisis and conflict.

[As a matter of historical record the war swept south and the young Ensign emerged from the conflict as a Lieutenant Junior Grade and skipper of the U. S. Navy Subchaser PC 819. He came home and married his waiting sweetheart.]

One month ago that young sailor died at age 95, just eleven days before they were to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. When asked about sailing off to the Aleutians and possible life-risking combat, my father would dismiss the sacrifice as he had numerous times before with the casual comment, “We all did what we had to.” Common courage was the order of the day all across America. Sacrifice and courage sound old fashioned in the false sophistication our hurried age. On this 4th of July, I argue that they are a true to remember and a lifestyle to emulate.

Beside the obviously pride I feel as a son of the then young Ensign Frank, I raise that story for a far deeper reason. I quite recognize, as hopefully so do you, that stories such as this can be repeated all across America on this July 4th.  Furthermore I recognize that such stories where people stepped forward in sacrifice and quiet courage can be told in other lands and other nations as well.  I share the story to raise a far higher, greater, nobler truth that in our relative abundance is easy, oh so easy, to forget.  We are here both as citizens and as Christians because of the sacrifice, courage and witness of others.  We both celebrate on the 4th of July and worship freely the day before because down through the two millennia of the Christian faith and the 240 years of the United States of America people have served and sacrificed.  We too must borrow Isaac Newton’s great phrase, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”[1]

I share this personal reflection on the 4th of July in no way to offer some misguided glorification of war.  Those who have valiantly served in combat know full well that its horrors are not to be wished on anyone.  Rather I pause to remember on this special anniversary because this is a time to remember an important truth.  Great living comes in courage, sacrifice, and witness.  It is right amidst the celebration to pause, remember this cardinal truth and give thanks!

[1]               http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/i/isaacnewto135885.html

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