Repeating the title...I’m a coward. I don’t know if I’d have the guts to sign up for a job that would take me to a foreign country whose language I didn’t know...or not...let alone selecting a job that might cost my life. Life! Probably the most precious gift we could give anyone.
The following three stories were told to me and I have passed them on many times before. They each deal with this most valuable thing...life (or a short reprieve before we cash in our chips/die). All three deal with WWII.
The first happened on a day when fighting between the Americans, their allies, and the Germans was very intense. The fighting had been so unfortunate that most of the leading service members had been killed. Finally, however, the Americans and their allies were captured.
During their march to a prisoner of war camp...a lowly young sergeant had been promoted to leader of the pack. Taking his job seriously, he whispered the order, “Whatever I do...the rest of you do. Got it? Pass it on.” And the message was whispered from one end of the troops to the other.
When the Germans finally got these captured soldiers to the camp, they told their prisoners to line up.
Suddenly an older German officer appeared to take control. He said some things in German to a few of the guards...then issued an order to the Americans, “Anyone of Jewish descent, step forward!” It was apparent these men were to be killed immediately.
The young sergeant hesitated only a few seconds. Knowing the background of the men under his command, the young man looked at the soldiers around him, stepped forward and said, “We’re all Jews here.” The other soldiers followed suit.
It is said the German officer in charge yelled an obscenity, then stomped off leaving his underlings to find places for the prisoners in the barracks. (The gift of life...)
The second story deals with the Americans and their allies in one trench and the Germans in another. Both sides were tired. The bullets were flying in the hope they would hit their target. Suddenly a young German crawled from his place in their trench and headed toward the Americans. He was going to the enemy because they weren’t going away. THEN...he was hit! He let out a cry, “Mom!” then tried to turn around and rejoin his comrades in arms.
The going was tough. He could barely move...dragging himself a bit, then resting he cried again, “Mom!” This was when an American soldier crawled from his own trench and went toward the injured man. The firing on both sides stopped.
It was then the young American did something entirely unexpected. When he reached the German soldier, he pulled him up to his feet, put one of his arms around the man’s waist...grabbed the German’s arm and wrapped it around his own shoulder...and grabbing the opposing soldiers hand... together they continued the German’s walk back to his own trench.
It was then a high German soldier crawled out of the trench to receive his fallen comrade. But, before he did...he took a medal from his own uniform and penned it onto the American’s shirt. “You deserve this more than I do,” he told the enemy. It was only after both men were securely in their own trenches that the war picked up where it had left off...and the bullets began once more to seek their target. (Again, the gift of life...and it doesn’t appear to have any one nationality attached to it.)
The third story was a Christmas happening. The war was raging on...hand to hand combat and trench warfare was the name of the game. Battle worn soldiers from both sides were hoping for an advantage. THEN...because it was Christmas morning a strange thing happened. Soldiers on one side began to sing some of the old Christmas songs. The firing stopped...
Soon the other side, the ‘enemy’ side, recognized the songs...and joined in with the singing. Both sides in the war had called a halt...all on their own...to celebrate the season they both loved. When the songs were over the shooting began again and the war resumed...
The beautiful old songs about Christmas...many of these came into being because of a man named Jesus. According to the Bible (a very early history book) this man was born just so He could give His life...so that ours would be saved. There again...is that ‘life’ thing...
Each of the men in these stories became veterans...who just kept soldiering on...doing their duty for the people of the country they loved... That’s what one does when they take on a job in earnest...they work through the problems. That’s what they were hired to do. And that, folks , is (merely) what the veterans of all nations have done...and why we at home should realize that it is a privilege of ours...to be able to salute...each of those who have gone to war for...”the land of the free...and the home of the brave!”