Veterans day in our home is much the same each year. It begins with a trip to the public elementary school where the school-aged members of our brood spend their weekdays. I find a seat in the front of the auditorium, while my husband attends a reception in an adjoining room. All living and willing vets in the area are invited to attend the ceremony each year and many of them do, representing every branch and every war since WWII.

After a light breakfast, the honorees are ushered onto the stage and seated. Young children in Uncle Sam hats and flag printed neck scarves file into the large gym, in arrow-straight lines, led by teachers waving small American flags.

The children face the vets on stage, not the crowd behind them, and begin serenading the esteemed guests in high pitched pre-pubescent cherubim voices. The melody of songs might include "My Country Tis of Thee", "The Star Spangled Banner", or "America the Beautiful".
The children’s enthusiasm is then briefly tempered by the somber heartfelt sentiments of a first grade teacher at the podium speaking of her baby brother, a Navy S.E.A.L. Because freedom, liberty and self-sacrifice are well regarded terms in our conservatively-held district, a place where children hardily welcome weathered faces of living Vets to commemorate the holiday.
Afterward, the husband hangs around for coffee with his cohorts, then heads downtown for a couple meetings. When he arrives home, there’s a bottle of Merryvale Cab Franc corked and breathing, awaiting a pairing of veal scallopini with a black raspberry and roasted red onion reduction, seasonal veggies sauteed in olive oil and pancetta, yeasty homemade olive and feta bread, and whatever the heck else my husband could possibly want to eat. It’s one of the very few days of the year when everything is about him, after all, there are six of us and if it were up to the children we’d celebrate Veteran’s Day with mac & cheese and chocolate milk.
He tells the kids about his travels, funny and not so funny things that happened in Ranger School. Recalling classmates he served with from West Point on. The 5’2" All-American power lifter that could easily tear the head off a guy twice his size…The badass redneck albino buddy who married a pageant queen from Georgia…The Italian-American classmate who had the New York mob trying to recruit him after graduation …The roommate frequently reprimanded for fraternizing with underclass females (and still does, only now, at the Pentagon)…And lastly, poor John, the beer-enthusiast buddy that accidentally moved to a dry county in Texas, forty-five minutes from the nearest liquor store.
The children love his stories. And, after fifteen years together, I might even know them as well as he does. After all, they were the same stories that had me laughing out loud the afternoon we met at a barbecue in Virginia. I’ve always been a sucker for a man that can make me snort.
We transition from funny to subdued as dinner comes to a close. Discussing my dad, who served in Korea in the early 70’s then onto his father, who was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge.
Then come the quiet moments. The solitary reason we gather. To pray for friends lost. As my husband recites a handful of precious names rather collectedly, his thumb finds the imprints of those same names engraved on his bracelet. It’s a sobering celebration. Our children, very aware of those who paid for our right to pursue life in an unhindered manner.
Of all the conflicts, The Great War probably fascinates me the most because I had many elderly clients who lived it. An Admiral in command of the Pacific Fleet…A Master Sergent who served in the allied occupation of Austria… And, my most interesting client to date, Mrs. B, a Prima Ballerina who entertained European dignitaries and royalty then fled to the U.S.A. when her Jewish ancestry was found out.
By the time I met Mrs. B she already had moderate memory loss, but that didn’t hinder her ability to leave an impression. She drank all day and smoked like a chimney. And at eighty-seven, she could still put her legs behind her head. There needs to be a medal for that.
With the help of personal chronicles from clients, D-Day had become one of my favorite topics, even before I went to Normandy and walked the beaches. The American cemetery there is on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. Pristine alabaster crosses and star of David markers overlook waters that buried so many American serviceman.
It was March. An impressive storm had blown through the night before our visit, washing ashore a bullet for my brother and a nearly petrified monkey wrench for me. The museum worker at Omaha beach told us to keep them. Apparently, they had vats full of that stuff already.
The Airborne museum in St. Mere Eglise was impressive, but I found myself more interested in the less known memorials. The inconspicuous local monuments we found while getting lost driving (which we did a lot). Humble sculpted stone and marble with names of civilian French men, women, and children who lost their lives during that perilous period. Some monuments strategically placed in town squares, next to the local parish.
I couldn’t help wonder if that war might have ended sooner, or even never started had our Christian counterparts in Germany refused the cult of extreme nationalism and fascist governance in lieu of faith and democracy.
This morning I was reading an article that estimated 30,000+ Germans deserted during WWII. We’ve all heard of the big name Nazi officers who knew first hand the madness of Hitler…Rommel..Valkyrie. But I pondered the 30K+ unnamed others who may have offered an incremental part in the final demise of the Third Reich. How many of those deserters switched sides?
Three years or so ago, I read "A Thousand Shall Fall". It’s a memoir of the Hansel family eventually written by the youngest child, Susi Hasel Mundy, who now calls the U.S. home. The book offers insight into the war through the eyes of devout Christians drafted into the German Army. It’s the story of her father, Franz Hasel, and his family who were practicing Seventh-day Adventists Protestant Christians and very opposed to everything Hitler stood for.
Seventh-day Adventists Christians differ from other Protestants in that they practice some of the Jewish laws prior to Christ including the keeping of the Sabbath (Saturday, not Sunday) and Kosher law as instructed in the book of Leviticus.
The novel begins with a letter ordering Franz to report for duty. The family was already suspect by other Germans because of their strong faith and differing lifestyle practices (especially Jewish ones). Such attachments were seen as a threat to German Nationalism, after all, you can only serve one god. But the family was committed to keeping their pacifist beliefs and focusing on their Christian faith.
My pastor says that if our prayers are for God’s will, then they will absolutely be answered. Such was the case for Franz, who ceaselessly prayed for German failure and asked God to find a way for him to keep the covenants of his faith, including not harming anyone and maintaining a Kosher diet. This was a tall order considering German rations were big on pork and protein was at a premium.
But God answered his prayers and provided safety nets for he and his family, ensuring modest provisions, safety and shelter, especially when the Nazi regime began to fall and take all of Germany down with it. His story is nothing short of a miracle, as he never fired a shot, yet he was blessed to live and tell about it. If only all faithful German Christians prayed that hard and resisted the violence that Hitler demanded. Perhaps death would not have stolen a generation of young fighters, civilians, and scores of Hebrews.
There were others who fought tyranny in the quiet, in the shadows. Members of the resistance movements in Europe. I think of them too on Veterans Day, because their small parts in the big picture may have just helped tip the scale.
In our home we remember American Vets, first and foremost. But this Veteran’s Day I hope to add another component to our dinner conversation, more folks to remember. Namely, prayer warriors, support people and unknown underground allied members who did their part from the inside out. Those who may have died without notice. The nameless who’s collective contributions equate to a notable war-time assist.
0 0 votes
Article Rating