Last week after classes were over, Anne and the kids picked me up at Case and we went out to dinner. As we entered the restaurant, we were guided past a table where a lone old man was sitting eating his dinner. The hostess seated us in the booth next to him.
As we passed, I noticed his hat sitting on the table, which declared that he was a World War II veteran. I have talked with the kids before about war and soldiers and the nobility of those that protect us by putting themselves in danger. So, when the man was done eating and stood up to leave, I asked him about his service.
You should have seen his face come alive. He must have been well into his eighties, but as he recounted his time in the South Pacific, his eyes were vibrant and young again. He told the kids about a mission to rescue captive missionaries and school teachers on an island near the Phillipines, where intelligence gave his unit the exact time when the prison camp guards met for calisthenics every morning. Figuring the guards would have put their rifles down to exercise, his unit parachuted in and took the whole camp in a matter of minutes without a single casualty on either side.
He told us too about how he still gets together regularly with the eight other men from his unit still living. We talked about the absolutely unique camradarie of those who have seen combat together. He said that their wives were always amazed how the men could pick right up with each other even after years and years of separation. I said that maybe that was God's gift to those that put themselves at risk and made it through.
I made sure to point out to the kids that we could sit there eating pancakes and eggs because men like him put themselves in danger. I also told the kids that while I would be scared if they ever went to war, I would be so proud of their choice to do so. It saddens Anne and I that our kids will grow up in a generation that does not revere soldiers, so we do what we can to teach them that that type of sacrifice deserves our respect.
As he left, the soldier turned back around and thanked me deeply for asking him about his experiences. It is not something that I usually do, but I am glad that I did.