My 94-and-a-half-year-old father (he says the halves count now) is a veteran of World War II, so as I rummaged through the remnants of nearly a century of living after selling his home, I ran across a timely Veterans Day reminder.
Billy V. Francis served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, signing up in 1942. He grew up in southwestern Oklahoma, near Hollis, where he went to high school.
While going through some of the many boxes from his home I found a Christmas letter written in 2008 from a friend from Hollis, who – along with his four brothers! – served in World War II.
I found the letter on the Sunday before Veterans Day. Not wanting to spit in fate’s face, I decided to share some of the letter from dad’s friend, Harold (note: I won’t use last names because I couldn’t contact any family members.):
The writing of our Christmas greeting this year was begun on Dec. 7, 2008, the 67th anniversary of a day that President Roosevelt said would live in infamy because of the dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Empire, which led to his declaration of war and the following promise to the American people: “We are now in the midst of a war, not for conquest, not for vengeance, but for a world in which this nation and all that our nation represents will be safe for our children. So we are going to win the war and we are going to win the peace that follows. And during the dark hours that are yet to come – we know that the vast majority of the members of the human race are on our side and many of them will be fighting with us, and all of them are praying for us and sharing our hope under God.”
The letter continues:
On Dec. 7, 1941, I was a senior student at Oklahoma A&M College. The college officials assembled all of the students into the Field House and we listened to President Roosevelt’s announcement, on the radio, of the attack on Pearl Harbor and his declaration of war on the Japanese Empire.
My mother and dad saw their five sons, one by one, enter the military service, three in the Navy, one in the Army and one in the Marines, even though they were all married and three families already had a total of five grandchildren. Our family was graced beyond measure because there were no war casualties to any of the five.
The family was more fortunate than other friends and classmates from Hollis:
W.C. S. and James C. became aviators and during the war in the Pacific, became missing in action and it was never known when or where they went down. Walton S. was serving in the Army during the invasion at Normandy and was killed in action. Cecil H. and John H. both survived the war, but not without serious injury. Cecil was shot through and through about 2 inches from his heart from an infantry bullet and John H. was shot in the knee and is still living today with a gimpy knee.
Heartbreaking, too, was the story of a friend from Hollis who served his country in another way.
Joe W. was rejected from an attempt to enlist in the service because of asthma. Wishing to do whatever he could to support his friends and country he went to work as a welder in a war production plant and died from an acute attack of asthma from the metallic fumes.
At the beginning of the Christmas letter, Harold reprinted a letter and some drawings he made while waiting overseas for a ship to take him home. The drawing shows the author waving to a ship leaving him behind as he and others await another ship to take them home.
I’ll end the same way Harold did as the U.S. was working to end the war in Iraq.
May we boldly hope for and prayerfully seek, from the Prince of Peace, the conclusion of another war and another homecoming for our brave men and women serving abroad.