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Memorial Day means remembering the history & the heroes

Back in the late 80’s, the CAF flew their B-29 (Fifi) and B-24 (Diamond ‘Lil) into the Tallahassee, FL, USA airport. I went out to see them.

When I was standing under the B-29, there was an old man in a wheel chair sitting under it, just looking up. An older woman, presumably his wife, was standing off to the side. A family was near him, and he started talking to them. His speech was slurred, which I guessed was from a stroke. The family seemed annoyed he was talking to them, and moved away. He hushed up.

I felt bad for the way they treated him. So I walked over, and standing under the open bomb bay, I said “Sure looks like they could hold a lot of ordnance in there.”

And in his slow, hard to understand speech, he started talking.

I listened as this man- this hero- told stories of being a bombardier on a B-29, of living in the South Pacific, of raids over Japan. He’d met “Tennessee” Ernie Ford, who he said was a -29 bombardier, too.

He recalled some of the people he knew, just first names, like Charlie and “ole Bud” and “some kid from San Diego”. Some of them brought tears, and others laughs. I honestly got teary eyed myself at times.

He even told about some odd group called the 509th Composite group, and he described to me watching a plane take off on the morning of August 6th- and he dramatically paused and said “That was the Enola Gay that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.”

We talked a little more, and I thanked him for the stories and for all he did.

That family who was to busy to listen to an old man slowly tell his tale never knew what they missed. They were in the presence of a hero, a real hero, and ignored it because of a little slurred speech and some liver spots.

They were free because of what that man- and others- did for them.

Memorial Day is about remembering…. the history, the heroes, the men and women who paid the ultimate price for our country. Remembering the history too. Why they gave it all. It may be a little too easy to just see a veteran, or their tombstone, and say “It’s great they fought for us.”

They left behind family, friends, innocence. brothers, sisters, children. A lot didn’t come back.

And it’s about honoring. Stopping and thinking about that the freedom we enjoyed came at a price. Too many times the younger generations forget this. Doing so, eventually, is at their own peril. Freedom has a price. It has a cost.

Our freedom in this country shows that. Look at the history. Our comfort came at a price.

Just as our freedom from the sting of death came at a price, through the blood of Jesus.

Today is Memorial Day. It’s for remembering the price paid for freedom. Someone had to lay down their life. Take some time to thank a veteran. And to thank the Lord for the ones who aren’t here.

3 thoughts on “Memorial Day means remembering the history & the heroes”

  1. Great stuff, Jon. A great reminder of the selflessness, and humility displayed by those who gave all for freedom.

    And a great reminder for Christians everywhere that the same selflessness and humility are required by all who claim the cross. Christ never let pride or self-centeredness draw Him from His purpose, and neither should those who call Him “Savior”.

    If we put our own self-interest, or our own desires above others, how successful would the church be? Some 237 years ago, had brave men and women valued their self more than others, those in the US would not know the freedom we have now, because we would still be “subjects”, and not citizens.

    May God bless the families of those who have died in service to this country, and of those still in service today. May He protect those who serve currently.

  2. I had something similar happen to me at an airshow in CT many years ago.

    We had flown one of our (VP-23) P-3s in for the show. We had a little time before we were going to open up our aircraft for tours, so the pilot let me go out and “scout around” a bit. Well, “Nine-o-Nine” was there, and since I was part of the airshow, the crew let me inside. After contorting my way from the aft fuselage up to the cockpit, I climbed into the copilot’s seat and just sat, and tried to take it all in. I was completely overwhelmed by the whole thing.
    As I sat there an elderly gentelman came up and asked if I minded if he sat in the other seat. “No sire, it’s not my airplane, but I don’t think the crew would mind.” He climbed into the pilots seat, and I watched as his hands very lightly caressed the control wheel and the throttle levers.
    He turned to me and said, “You know, the last time I was in one of these was in January, 1945.” Well, guys the hair on the back of my neck stood up! He said that one minute they were flying along in formation, and the next thing he knew was that he was floating down to earth to become a POW. He was the only member of the crew that made it out alive.
    I was so overwhelmed by being where I was and being honored by this heroic gentlemen, that to this day, I can not tell you one thing about my journey through that B-17!

  3. Scott A. Des Planques

    Well said All. In the last year I have given two WWII vets models of the planes they either flew or worked in. I am mailing a third this week. Mike Fisher, a radio operator on a B-17G based in England and Harold Only a mechanic on B-25s from North Africa where he worked on the B-25 (Js?) to India where he worked on the B-25(G or H?) with the 75mm cannon in the nose. Both of these wonderful men were very moved by the unexpected gift. There is really nothing like giving an old vet a model of the planes the worked with; their eyes speak volumes, their faces light up and you can almost feel the memories coming back to them. It is a beautiful thing to behold. It is like giving them back a part of their youth, if only for a brief time.
    Modelers out there, try to take time to make a model for a vet if you can. Hurry, because we are loosing them every day. It doesn’t have to be a model with marking for their personal aircraft. For them just to see an example of the planes they flew is enough to bring back memories of the long lost days of their youth when the Nation called upon them to sacrifice and serve. Their collective sacrifices helped prevent us all from saluting the swastika or rising sun instead of our beautiful flag. May God bless them all.

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