Thought For Today

I am so glad that you have found this site and I hope you will find encouragement and joy as you read through my thoughts on God, family and life.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

John 15:13 No greater love than a man has when he lays down his life for his friend.

 Today I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and a nice crisp feel in the air.  The temperature was in the 50’s and the brisk wind made it seem as if the fall was coming early.  I went out unto the golf course and enjoyed walking the fairways and watching the baby geese next to their proud parents.

After leaving the golf course I decided to stop at Hy Vee and get some donuts and Long Johns for the kids.  When entering the store I looked over into the eating area and found my friend Ray.  He is a WWII veteran who now is retired from the police force.  His wife passed away nine years ago and he lives alone.  One of his enjoyable parts of the day is eating breakfast at Hy Vee and relaxing while talking to his friends.  Much of the time Ray and I find ourselves talking about the military.  He shares a lot with me about his missions that he went on.  He spent much of his time on a PT boat in the Pacific during WWII.  His other training was that of special mission operations that involved rescuing down pilots on various Pacific islands and also that of various military covert operations.  He does not brag about his experiences in WWII, on the contrary, I can see the remorse and sadness in his eyes as he speaks.  It becomes therapeutic for him I believe to share these experiences with me and I enjoy hearing about the heroism of his military friends and of himself.  

Many bad things happened to the soldiers that Ray either rescued or could not save. Although the details of these stories are often disturbing, suffice it to say, in Ray’s time though in the military, he like many of his fellow servicemen saw death everyday.  Ray saw many of his friends and acquaintances die, and that of the enemy as well.  These stories of his war years that Ray shares with me, reveals much of man’s sacrifice in the heat of combat. 

A  birthday celebrated with great grandma Marji
When listening to Ray I can see and feel the pain that he went through in adjusting to civilian life after the war.  When getting back from the service his struggle was to acclimate to a “normal” life.  One of the adjustments Ray had was that of sleeping at night, feeling that if he did fall asleep, it might allow his thoughts to return to the literal hell he was in during the war.  Having his father touch his foot to wake him one morning, and almost hurting his dad before realizing that he was in his own bed at home again, was just one of his many adjustments to civilian life.  The war never leaves these men in what they have seen and were compelled to do in the heat of battle, that is in their self-sacrifice in their duty to our country.  Continually watching their friend’s die and those of other men that they never knew haunts these individuals almost every day.  Time though in its gentle touch, allows these silent unknown heroes to gain some semblance of peace as years go by, but the images of their pasts never completely leaves their thoughts.   Memories such as reaching down to pick up desperate sailors from the burning waters, who Ray knew would not last the night due to their injuries, haunt his memories to this day.  He went on rescue missions only to see that those Ray wanted to so desperately to save, had been tortured to death just before he and his men arrived.  Feeling the helplessness of life, trying so hard to hold on to the humanity that they so desperately wanted to preserve for themselves and their fellow soldiers and sailors.  These memories of so long ago refuse to let such men as Ray forget.  Ray like so many of his compatriots looked into death’s eyes each day, wanting desperately for the war to end.  They hoped that by each battle won, it would take them one step closer to going home and living a life once again that was sane and human. 

Newly built lego lighthouse.
Ray did get married and he became a police officer, he has lived his life the best that he could and now his challenges are of a different nature.  He has a bad hip and he struggles to get around each day.  He feels the pain not only from his past in WWII, but he also is experiencing the agony of his body not wanting it to do what he would ask of it. 

Today after listening to him share more of his military past, I felt an overwhelming thankfulness that there were and are men and women who place themselves in harm’s way in the service of our country to protect our way of life. 
Before leaving Ray today I reached over to him and shook his hand.  I told him that he was one of my heroes.  He along with so many others like him, men and women whose voices are now silent, they saved us so that we could live the lives that we so cherish.  It saddens me though to think of many who are growing up today who do not understand nor care about the freedoms that we enjoy, the sacrifices of the many thousands who gave their lives throughout our country’s history, so that we might possess the rights and freedoms we have today.  Somehow the realization of their supreme sacrifice has been lost along the way and we have relegated them and their heroic deeds to the forgotten resting places of history.  George Santayana once said, “ Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  If we as a country make a conscious choice to learn from men and women like Ray, who gave their all to secure our freedoms from those that strove to take them, then their sacrifices will not have been in vain. 

Please take time to tell those around you that have served in our Armed Forces how much you appreciate what they have done for you.  This will not only give them the honor due to them, it will allow them to heal within knowing that what they have done was not in vane.   It will let them know that you understand their sacrifice and the very precious gift they have given you and to all of us.