Two flags, properly folded in accordance with military protocol, hang in a hall in the Rectory - they are the flags that draped the caskets of our fathers, Becky's and mine. Encased atop each blue star-studded field is a small photograph of the uniform clad young man taken during World War II. Becky and I don't need the flags and the pictures to remind us of our fathers and of their great love for their country . . . we knew them in their living and dying moments. But our grandchildren did not have that privilege. They never saw the faraway look that would settle over their countenance at the mention of battle; they never heard the thunderous silence that would follow any and every question related to combat.
Both were born in Sumter County, South Carolina: Becky's father made his way from the family farm in Dalzell to fight in Germany under General Patton; my father's journey started earlier and took him to Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and kept him aboard ship in the Pacific Ocean throughout that war and the next. But they were among the fortunate ones from Sumter County . . . virtually every church in the county has a plaque honoring its fallen sons and daughters. Our fathers came home, home to fill their nostrils with the fresh air of freedom won anew after years of inhaling the stench of death, home to start families and engage some semblance of normalcy. They came home but not as they had left - the young bright-eyed boys they had once been had died just as surely as if a bomb blast had claimed their mortal bodies. They came home as men who were old beyond their years, having little tolerance for foolishness and great difficulty in expressing their emotions. They came home, too, as men who looked back on it all with many questions, most of which started with the same word: "why."
A half century ago General Douglas MacArthur quoted Plato saying, "Only the dead have seen the end of war." Our fathers could attest to the truth of those words; and if we forget what they and so many others did for us, our grandchildren will be able to do so as well.
In His Power and for His Glory,