My favorite veteran and my hero is my dad.
He epitomized the greatest generation–what he did in WW II was heroic. And he has the medals to prove it. He never talked about them or showed them to me but after he died, I was reading his discharge papers and learned that he earned battle medals with clusters for service “above and beyond the normal call of duty.”
Normal duty was as a machine gunner on a B-17 named “Lassie Come Home”. On June 7th, 1943, Dad was in the belly of the plane for his 28th bombing mission. This time, he and the crew of 10 were loaded up for a bombing raid over Germany, headed for Berlin.
Grandma’s battle was fought through prayer. She devoted every Wednesday to prayer. For hours at a time, she would remember, by name, missionaries, pastors, churches, the sick, neighbors and families in need asking God to bless, protect and care for them and be glorified by their lives. Dad credits his survival to his mother’s prayers.
Resistance was tough on the flight that Wednesday in June 1943. There was flak and fighter fire. Debriefing reports revealed that his plane was hit by fire from a diving fighter. When Dad saw the wing on fire he knew they were going down. He immediately unmanned his 50 Caliber machine gun, ripped off his oxygen mask, and turned for the door at the back of the fuselage where he was going to bail out at 25,000 feet. It would be his first jump. Before he got to the door, the many sounds of war–racing engines, guns firing, men screaming and the burning plane with the g-forces throwing him beyond his control–crescendoed into a fiery explosion and the debris of “Sleepytime Gal” fell to earth. The sound of the wind from a free fall was all he could hear but he did not remember how he got out of the plane nor did he remember pulling the rip cord to deploy his parachute. He knew that he must have because he remembered reaching the ground, the throbs of a severely sprained ankle greeting him, along with a handful of German farmers with pitchforks, shovels, and a shotgun. There was no time to find his missing chute. He was carted off, put in a cell with stone walls in the back corner of the local jail until German soldiers came and took him. He was made an official Prisoner of War for the next 11 months, housed in one of Germany’s five major Stalags for U.S. and Allied Forces prisoners. Four of his crew never saw another day. (Welcome to the Big Leagues~~page 38)
Today I salute Dad and his crew. I’m thankful for such an honorable heritage.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13