Memorial Day 2011
When I seek to honor the men and women of the armed forces who paid the ultimate price to fight for freedom and justice, I think of their peers and how they honor those who didn’t make it. Those who remember their fellow soldiers who fought and died on the battlefields of the last century are now bowed men in their eighties and nineties speaking hesitantly about their colleagues and their service a lifetime ago in the killing fields of Europe and Asia. We owe our nation to them, because of their moral strength, their youthful sacrifices, and their country-building ethic.
There has been much courage and dreadful sacrifice by veterans in the intervening years, but on Memorial Day and all days when we honor veterans, I think of my favorite veteran, my father, who left us to be with the Lord he loved in January 2004 at the age of 79.
“They were better than we are,” wrote Tom Brokaw about the generation that saved the world from the last century’s Axis of Evil. The stark statement is true, we know. My father, Harry Jewell, was better than I am, I know.
Dad was a member of what they’ve called The Greatest Generation. He served his country mostly in Italy during World War II, and he was a hero of the American variety—putting his life on the line to save the world, and spending his life to serve his family, assuring their well-being in so many ways.
Dad told very few stories of the War, like most of his comrades in arms who saw their service as opportunities for duty, not celebrity; he didn’t relish the ugly memories. But from time to time we’d pull out a remarkable tale. Such as the time he was racing his jeep across an open field, with German artillery following him, but missing by just a few paces each time. Or the time he and others stepped inside a building, and their friend was obliterated by a shell on the front step they had just left. Death was always so close.
A sense of purpose prevailed and soldiers like Dad never asked why. Evil is evil, and men like Dad didn’t have any trouble recognizing it, as many seem to today.
A man of deep faith, my Dad demonstrated his peace with God in his final days and his homegoing. In life and at death he was an example to all of us.
Thanks to all who have served, then and now. And thanks Dad. I miss you.