Good morning. It is a perfect day here in New Hampshire to take a walk. The sun is shining brightly, the spring trees have just lost their blossoms, and there is a cool breeze for the temperature this morning is 55 degrees. This beautiful day dawns with a sadness in our hearts over the racial unrest in our country. Amid a pandemic that has torn our normal relationships with others apart, our country is now further divided by racial strife.
I have just listened to a service by the pastor of the church we attend, and he made several suggestions about our need to understand the racial differences in our nation. It is time that our nation offered a peaceful, healthy, promising, and just environment for all people. How we accomplish that has to be through our belief in our Christian faith. Our Christian faith is not to be exclusive but embracing with a love for all peoples of our common earth. We have a faith that is never to be a forced faith – one that demands that you believe as I believe or else you have no right to exist. Love is the answer to life – it is Christ’s answer to love and to pray even for your enemy. This pastor likes to believe that during the Second World War when we in this country and other nations defeated the evil empire of Adolph Hitler, we did not starve the German people but reached out with love and help to rebuild that broken nation. I believe the same happened with the defeat of Japan. We, the ones who conquered, did not demand reparations nor had the desire to retaliate against the Japanese people. Rather, we reached out to help them rebuild their nation in a form of freedom. It is with that spirit that we must rebuild black and white relationships.
Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend, and I promised that this week I would talk about Bud and Chester, Wayne and Alan. Those men were servicemen during the Second World War. Bud married my cousin Barbara and his brothers were Chet and Wayne. After the war was over, they formed a house building company in North Hampton, New Hampshire.
Alan married my cousin Margery and was a signalman in the Navy. As Alan was very tall, it used to be said it was just like the Army to place a tall man behind a signal light on a ship for a tall man would be an easy target. All that was said in teasing to Alan. But it was the three brothers I came to know best. While I was in college, I travelled to North Hampton to work for the brothers as a laborer. It was there I learned my carpentry and house building skills for we poured concrete floors from a small mixer, framed the building, insulated it, hung the doors, tiled the bathrooms, painted the finished rooms – we did it all. While working for the brothers at coffee break time (every workday at ten o’clock) we would listen to their stories about their service to their country.
Bud was stationed in England until he was shipped to Europe. He spoke of the buzz bombs and how you did not worry when you heard them going over, but when the engines stopped,you knew they were falling to earth. No target set, those buzz bombs were just an instrument of destruction and terror. The V2 rockets were set for certain targets, and they were programmed. They dropped to earth on a designated target. From England,Bud came home for a brief furlough. We were surprised to see him in an Army uniform for he was in the Navy. He went back to Europe to be a part of the invasion of Germany. Assigned to the Army, he was responsible for the drop door of an LST which would cross the Rhine River. To get those crafts to the Rhine meant the danger of being bombed repeatedly by German aircraft. They tore the doors off of the truck carrying the landing crafts so they could jump out from behind the wheel if they heard enemy planes. There is much more to Bud’s stories, but that’s for another time.
Wayne spoke one day about his return home to America. His voyage began from the North Sea. So anxious was he to get home, that he tied his hammock at the rear of the ship. In the shallow North Sea, he told how the propellers would come out of the water, and the whole ship would shake. He said not only did his hammock swing back and forth, but it also felt like it was going down a staircase at the same time. That didn’t matter – all he could think of was going home.
Chet was in the Pacific Theater. He told of losing half his active men to jungle rot. The Pacific Theater stories held us in disbelief. Chet probably spoke the least of his service of the brothers. I think he saw the worst of humanity, and he could not easily speak of it. He always seemed like the “tough guy” among the brothers. He was the owner of their construction company.
Day after day, we would hear their stories as we learned carpentry skills. Bud would tell how when the men came back on board ship after a leave, the military police would tap their legs with a club. Some of the men would have tied a flask to their leg to enjoy on ship. That test would end the trickery. Never did I see Bud take an alcoholic drink. He told me one day, in a statement that I so admired, that when he was in the Navy and took a drink of whiskey, he became a different person with a mean disposition. When he came home, Bud said he wanted his life to be good and a happy one for his family as well.
So many times, I remember those days of working as a carpenter and the kind of men I worked for in North Hampton. Bud holds a very special place in my life for what he taught me and for what he did for our country. He wanted his service to bring a better life to Americans. We dishonor our service people when we are selfish, and we do not treat everyone as a child of God. I believe Bud was a conqueror who wanted a better life for even his enemies. Gratefully before his death, he was able to return to Europe and see what the results of his service had been. He visited places that had been restored from the ravages of war.
Our lives are better now for the men and women who served during the Second World War. We need to face a new challenge today here in America. That challenge is to see that all members of our country, no matter race, religion or culture should be loved and cared for as a child of God. A quiet violence that can be ignored must not be ignored any longer. When injustice is seen, it must be rectified. We as a people must love one another and see that all who live in this land of ours must be accorded “liberty and justice for ALL.”
Our prayer this day is for an end to violence and inhumanity toward all and for the families who find vacant places at the tables in their homes from loved ones who have been taken away to soon, from a virus yet to be conquered.
Will look forward to walking with you next week.
And now, “ May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”