America celebrates freedom and those who protect it

Published 4:09 am Sunday, May 9, 2010

Yesterday, the third Saturday in May, was Armed Forces Day; a day to honor the men and women of all the branches of the military. The day was established when President Harry Truman asked the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard to celebrate on the same day instead of a separate day for each. They all agreed and Armed Services Day began in 1949. Well, they all agreed to observe Armed Forces Day but the Marine corps and Coast Guard opted to also keep their traditional days.

Many Americans go to see the air shows and watch the military parades; Johnie and I are glad that we can sit in front of the television set and enjoy the national celebration. In fact, the cameras seem to give us a front seat. We especially enjoy the playing of patriotic songs by the nations great orchestras and bands.

We display the American flag in the front of this old farm house and contact one or more service persons. This year we sent an email of heart felt appreciation to our grandson, Dylan, who is serving a second hitch in Iraq.

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We always pray for our nation, for the men and women in the armed services around the world, for the leaders and citizens of friendly nations. We also pray for the nations of the world with whom we have issues: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan — God loves them all just as he loves America.

If you are willing to join the feeling for America that is memorialized in the patriotic days I have a recommendation. Beg, borrow or buy a book published by the Picayune Item titled, “Pearl River County’s Greatest Generation, A Salute To The Brave Men Who Fought And Died.And Those Who Fought And Lived.”

The text consists of alphabetically arranged pictures and stories of the men and women who served during WW ll. You will notice that those young people, now gone or among the aged, came mainly from the admirable families that founded this part of the state and nation.

As a chaplain serving in WW ll, I was pleased to see the powerful story near the end of the book by Chaplain Stevens who ministered to the 720th squadron of the 450th bomb group.

One afternoon, as he stood waving a welcome to the men returning from a mission, a jeep raced up and the driver yelled, “The C.O. wants you in the tower.”

As I stepped into the tower, the commanding officer motioned me to his side. He told me that there were wounded men on one of the planes and the mechanism that lifted the ball turret back into the plane had lost its hydraulic systems.

“There is about 5 minutes of gas and the plane will then have to belly-land. The gunner in that turret cannot be saved. He is aware of the situation and wants to talk with you.”

The colonel then turned the microphone on and told the airman, “Chaplin Stevens is here. I’ll give him the mike.”

What happened next still moves me almost to tears to this day. Robertson (I do not use his real name because of his last request) told me that he was aware he was about to die. He wanted to thank everyone, those in the plane with him and in the tower for what they tried to do to save him.

“Please don’t tell my parents how I died,” he said, “Pray for me.”

I prayed with my eyes on the plane. What I said to my God, I do not know. But at the last minute I turned off my mike, and there was Robertson’s voice reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

As I watched that plane drop the last few feet, I heard him say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” Then the plane hit the ground, and the turret disappeared in a streak of sparks.

I collected Robertson’s personal effects and sent them to his parents, along with a letter telling them that he bravely died serving his country.

They never knew just how brave he really was.

May God guide our nation’s leaders in their efforts to promote peace; to spare us yet another war that appears to be looming on the horizon in the Middle East. The signs are ominous, the issue is critical, but the arm of the Lord is powerful.

“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalms 9:10