Tag Archives: World War II

A Kinder, Gentler Place

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Sacrifice

Arlington

Some women veterans of World War II who had been denied burial in Arlington National Cemetery are now allowed that honor.  Earlier this week, Congress passed a bill permitting female pilots—known as WASPS—the high honor of being buried in what really is sacred ground.

According to Stars and Stripes, members of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots have been working to right this wrong since the Army last year reinterpreted a law from the 1970s that banned them from Arlington burials as a way to deal with the increasingly limited space there.  These brave Fly Girls were trained pilots who transported combat aircraft from 1942-1944, but were not considered active-duty service members at the time.

Thank goodness that was remedied, and the WASPS have since been given the Congressional Gold Medal and veteran benefits for their service.  They stepped into roles outside of the norm for women, and should be recognized for that.  This really has nothing to do with the controversy over women in combat roles.  I don’t personally believe that’s the proper role for women, but they do have a place if they choose to have one within the military.

I once knew a guy who was a veteran who used to refer to female Marines as “WOMAN Marines”.  But he said it with a certain amount of disdain in his voice as if their service was somehow less than his own.  I got the impression he didn’t see them as fellow Marines who just happened to be female.  It’s like the ignorant boss who looks down on his secretary without getting a clue that she (or he for that matter) makes his job easier (if he or she is good at what they do).

I give that above example just as a way to explain that all veterans—male and female—have given something of themselves to preserve the ideas of the American experiment.  They just do it in different ways.  Most gave at least some of their time in their youth, their innocence; some lost limbs, sanity or relationships…others gave their lives.  Even those who served in situations where they weren’t in danger should have our gratitude so long as they did it with honor.

There’s a sign outside of a veterans’ hospital in the area I grew up in that  has this statement:  “The price of freedom is visible here.”  It can’t be said too often that freedom isn’t free—it always costs someone something.  That’s true if we’re talking about the freedom we have within our nation, and the freedom we need within ourselves.

Today is Good Friday.  Many Christians remember an even greater sacrifice that was made for all people of all times by the only One who could have made it.  It wasn’t to save men from the clutches of an evil dictator or repressive government, but to save people from ourselves and the consequences of the sin we were all born into.  Jesus died once for all of us to save us from an eternity apart from Him.

It didn’t take an act of Congress to do it…we just need to believe it.

Price of Freedom

Historical Amnesia

Allied forces on their way to the French coastline on June 6, 1944

Allied forces on their way to the French coastline on June 6, 1944

“I was looking toward land and saw a large shell fall right on a landing craft full of men. I had been praying quite a bit through the night as we approached the French coast but now I began praying more earnestly than ever. Danger was everywhere; death was not far off. I knew that God alone is the maker and preserver of life, who loves to hear and answer prayer. We finally landed and our assault craft was miraculously spared, for we landed with no shells hitting our boat.”– Capt. John G. Burkhalter, Chaplain with the “Fighting First” division in Normandy, France in a letter to his wife, Mable

When Captain Burkhalter wrote those words to his wife 70 years ago, many of us readers and writers of blogs weren’t even born yet…some of our parents may not have been around either. It’s hard to imagine the horrific sights and sounds that greeted the soldiers and airmen who stormed the beaches of France on June 6, 1944. They were, as Capt. Burkhalter says later in his letter, “impressions made on my mind that will never leave it.”

For those who care to look, their words and remembrances of that day are easily found. But what if we don’t even know or care to know what happened on D-Day and why Americans died for a cause that they knew was bigger than them?

Evidence is all around us of the lack of knowledge the average educated American has of our own nation’s history. According to a recent study done by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), less than half of those surveyed knew who was president on D-Day (it was Roosevelt) and one quarter of us don’t even know that it happened during World War II!

This is sad news for a nation that expects to remain free. Anne Neal, president of ACTA, calls it “a slap in the face for all those who fought so valiantly for America’s freedoms.” She goes on to say that college students are graduating with little understanding of American history because courses in it are no longer required on most campuses: “We aren’t adequately preparing the next generation for the challenges of career and community with this apathetic approach to our national heritage. These college graduates are unlikely to understand the cost of maintaining our nation’s freedom.”

Capt. Burkhalter knew the cost because he saw it firsthand. So did Navy medic Virgil Mounts, who at age 16 (according to most accounts) was the youngest hero to die on D-Day. Hospital Apprentice Mounts, a Kentucky boy, was barely old enough to drive when he and fellow medic Frank Walden were attending to some wounded GI’s on the beach when enemy fire landed near them. Shrapnel tore through Beachmaster Mounts’ body and into Walden. The only difference in the stories of these two men is that one ended that day, while the other (Walden) lived to become an old man.

Contrary to the popular saying, ignorance is not bliss.  How long can it be acceptable when most people know more about who won the last Survivor competition than they do about their own history or how their government is supposed to work?  ACTA’s president is exactly right to say that this is a slap in the face to those who gave their lives in service to our nation.  No one can defend—or have the responsibility to defend– freedoms they don’t even know they have. It’s the reason why it was unlawful to educate slaves here in America…and why homeschooling was illegal in Nazi Germany…

Tyranny thrives on ignorance.