In my line of work I get to meet many interesting people. Some of the most interesting over the years have been World War 2 veterans.
My dad was a naval advisor in Korea back in the early 1970s. Since the country was fairly safe then, we were able to live there also. Living on base in Chinhae, one of our regular entertainments was going to see the movies on Saturday afternoon. Most of the movies on base were free – just the right price for us kids. One I remember seeing was Merrill’s Marauders, the story of American’s in Burma in World War 2. My later studies of history never led in that direction, so the movie (seen as a third grader) was my sole education on that subject. Until I met Joe Woodley, that is. Joe was a member of the first congregation I served, and had been one of Merrill’s Marauders after graduating from Texas A & M. Joe (a real character) put a face on my childhood memory.
My wife’s grandfather was another character. J.W. Anderson spent most of his career working at a paper mill in Lufkin. During the war he’d served as a paratrooper (513th Regiment) and was one of the few survivors of his unit (HBO’s series Band of Brothers depicted a unit very much like his own). He told of the great tiredness they experienced in combat. One time they were able to rest a little by catching a ride with a British tank unit. He promptly fell asleep. When he woke up he say destroyed tanks all around him. It seems that he’d slept through a tank battle.
J.W. was a Methodist all his life though he didn’t become a follower of Jesus until late in life. His wife had prayed for him throughout their marriage. He only gave his life to Christ after she died. Even though he was a senior citizen at the time, he didn’t “rest” in his salvation. He promptly started teaching Sunday School and leading bible studies in his home, continuing into his 80s.
Just last week I heard that Hiroshi Yamashiro had passed away last month. Hiroshi was a member of our church in California. Raised a Buddhist, he had become a Christian after his family moved from Japan to Hawaii. At the time I knew him, Hiroshi was one of the happiest people around, always quick to laugh. He kept his garden (and the church garden) going, and carried his camera everywhere, taking pictures. During World War 2 Hiroshi had been a member of the famous 442nd Regiment (all Japanese Americans fighting in the ETO).
These three have all gone on to glory now, a glory due them not because of their prowess or participation in warfare or defending their country, but to their faith in Christ. I’m hapy to have counted each of them as friends.