Normally this would be covered in the Remembrance Day Report but I think it needs its own space and hopefully the editor agrees. Yes we are going to talk about sacrifice, loss, sorrow and all that it en-tales, but from a different perspective.
When we picture Remembrance Day the symbol of the Poppy looming large over the gravestones of the dead is what comes to mind. Long line of soldiers guns over their shoulder or troops in mud to their waist.
This piece is not about that aspect….. today we look at some of the bravest people on the battlefields and the seas.
One group that never got much consideration until recent years were the thousands of souls in the Merchant Marines. These people were for the most part sitting ducks for thousands of miles through open seas delivering supplies to Britain. For these people there is scant mention of them on the elevated pages of history, though their contribution was indispensable. For these brave people there were no flashy celebration of their efforts. Although considered a fourth branch of military service these brave souls were denied veterans coverage. It wasn’t the military that won the battle of the Atlantic it was the merchant navy and it took until 2003 before they were officially acknowledged for their bravery.
Another group with more guts than most of us could ever muster, were the medics that operated on the battlefield under fire. Imagine, tending to the wounds of dying men while shells were bursting around you coming from all directions. They came with the supplies needed and carried the wounded out on stretchers. Hundred of them lost their lives, some are credited with taking up arms to defend their wounded patients, and no one can deny their courage and sacrifice for our nation.
The last group is more controversial but for the human spirit amidst the ugliness of war, the Chaplain was essential.
I remember hearing stories of the chaplain service during WWII, but in Vietnam they were somewhat regarded as the villain. Some will remember the song by the Animals “Sky Pilot” Why mention that today? Well war and the social condition is related to the time in which we live and the events and visions but represent the truth of that time.
My favorite story about the Chaplain service took place during the Battle of the Bulge near Christmas 1944. The allied forces were surrounded and it was left to George Patton and his Third Army to rescue them. Yes he consulted with his senior command and field officers. The weather was foul and was to be that way for a week. Patton ordered they find a Chaplain who had a good relationship with God. When he arrived he ordered him to compose a prayer for good weather so the air force could supply air support for Patton to attack the enemy.
At the time Patton told the Chaplain, lets see if we can’t get God on our side for a bit.
The famous prayer is cited for changing the course of the war as the following morning sunshine defied the law of science.
There is the story of Rev. Joseph O’Callahan who stayed for three days aboard a burning ship tending to the wounded and putting out fires until help arrived.
Reverend George Bentz ordered a young seaman to take the Chaplain life preserver when they abandoned ship. Bentz knew what the outcome would be. There are dozens of stories out there of brave men who entered the frat to save lives or to inspire courage in others. We thank those in arms for their sacrifice and service and sometimes I think we miss the fact that victory is not won by the insignia of the force. Victory is won by the individual souls who believe in the cause and defended their bothers and sisters in arms on the battlefield.
Most are not thinking of being a hero at the time.
They are thinking about survival in the most horrid of conditions. This fact alone is what inspires ordinary men and women to do great things.
At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day we should keep all those who served in our prayers and our minds.