On Friday I'll have the privilege of speaking to a group of High-Schoolers at a Veteran's Day assembly. (Friday is the day that works in their schedule.) Last year when I was asked speak I thought it was strange, since I have never been in the military. This year I was even more surprised when I was asked to come back.
It is also the Thanksgiving season. The two days of recognition overlap. I am thankful for my country and for those who defend it.
Friday, I plan to talk about 3 people.
Sam Falanru (I probably don't have his name spelled right) is a man I met on Guam. He and I served together on the board of Pacific Islands Bible College. Sam is from the Island of Yap. He was a boy during World War II when our planes were bombing his Island. He told me how the air-raid sirens would go off at night and he and his family would have to find their home-made bomb shelter in the dark. "We couldn't even light a candle or a match." The shelter consisted of a hole in the ground covered over with coconut logs, then that covered with dirt. He said one time during a time of rain, he remembered standing in the shelter in the dark with water up to his chest, hearing the bombs going off and seeing the flashes of light from the explosions.
You would think that after enduring such an ordeal that Sam would be anti-American, but he isn't. Most of the men on Yap had been rounded up and taken to other Islands by the Japanese. They were used, essentially as slave labor to build airstrips and such. Like many people in the world, Sam regarded the US forces as liberators. A friend of mine served on a battleship in that area of the Pacific. Another friend who just died, flew for the Army Air-Corps in the Pacific. A gentleman who was a charter member of the church where I serve carried a ringing in his ears to the grave; the ringing came from firing the big-guns as our troops fought Island to Island for victory.
I met Saul at Dachau in Germany. A friend of mine says about Dachau and Auschwitz, that everyone should have to go there once, and only once. I totally understand. I was standing in one of the chapels built on the ground of this former concentration camp, when an older gentleman said, "I was here."
Sam grew up a Jew in Czhekoslovakia. He and his family were put in Dachau. Sam was the only survivor. He told me that as far as he knew he had put his own father's body in the oven. He said that he came back there, because it allowed him to feel close to his family. He had spent most of his adult life in America, the land that had been willing to shed its blood to stop the evil that imprisoned and killed his people. In America he made a good living and raised a family.
My dad and his two uncles were part of the war that set Saul, and millions like him free.
She was one of the Afghans who for the first time in the history of their land went to the polls and voted. To cut down on the possibility of people voting more than once, each voter signified that they had cast their ballot by dipping their finger in indelible ink. It became not only a security measure, but a point of pride.
A friend of mine was serving with the US Army during that election. He recognized the significance of all those indigo fingers and so obtained one of those ballots to bring home and frame and give to his little girl so that she would know that her dad was involve in something that was worth doing--something that made a difference for people.
Unfortunately a lot of bad things are said about our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Air-Force personnel. I'm glad that I've been able to meet some people around the world who bear witness to the good things these men and women have and are doing.
On this Veteran's Day I thank those who have served, and are serving.
Let's be sure to pray for those in harm's way.