Thursday, May 24, 2012

Overcoming





I have spent the past two days interviewing WWII pilots for my book. And one top turret gunner. I came across them through a lucky search on the internet on an unrelated topic. A small museum in Indiana that housed WW2 memorabilia has a whole assortment of WW2 vets that are museum docents. I emailed to ask about a specific WW2 relic that pertained to my book, and a whole host of pilots emailed back. They were all gracious and more than happy to talk with me. The youngest was 88. What really surprised me was how sharp every one of them was, and also, that all had email addresses. These men who were born long before computers were all computer savvy, and sent me links to other resources as well as talking for over an hour with me. Their stories were amazing- the B17 bomber crews had perhaps the most hazardous job in the war. Half of the B17 crews were killed just in training exercises, one veteran told me. Another pilot talked with me for two hours, and never once told me he had earned a DFC, a meritorious courage award. It was another vet who told me that later. These WWII vets were a different breed. Why, I wondered? Why did we as a country unite so solidly back then, and we seem so fractured and bickering amongst ourselves now? Has it always been this way and I am just looking on a past I didn't know with romanticized, rose colored glasses? I certainly don't want to go back to a time of world war, but I envy the single minded purposefulness, love of family and country that these vets seem to uniformly possess. Maybe it is that major struggle really does dredge out a character that will never emerge if life is too easy.

Jesus said, "IN this world, you will have troubles. But take heart, I have overcome the world." We should not be surprised by struggle, nor should we shirk from it. If God didn't want us to struggle, He could certainly have arranged it that way. There must be a purpose to struggle that brings about something far more valuable than our ease, comfort, or happiness.

"Has anyone ever interviewed you?" I asked Jim, the top turret gunner.
"Nope," he said, "The 8th squadron got a lot of publicity. They flew the reporters with them sometimes. Like Andy Rooney. Did you know that? But we were ignored. The 15th didn't get much notice."
That made me sad. His "wing" risked their lives just as much as the men of the 8th AAF. Their targets were some of the most closely guarded, and close guard meant lots of enemy flak shells trying to shoot them down.
"There aren't many of us left," Jim reminded me, "But I can get you names of pilots that will talk with you who are still around."
I don't even care if their story goes in my book. Someone should be listening to their stories, I thought. They certainly deserve to be heard, these men who struggled so bravely and overcame fear to do what needed to be done.

John 16: 31-33
"Do you now believe?" Jesus replied. "A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."




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