Armistice Day – a family’s legacy

My grandfather was a World War One doughboy.

World War One memorial in Pennsylvania (Wikimedia)

A Doughboy depicted in a World War One memorial in Pennsylvania

Of course it wasn’t called World War One back then. In fact, some thought it would be “The War to End All Wars“. I don’t know if my grandfather felt that way, but he fought in the trenches and suffered mustard gas poisoning just like you read about in books and see in the movies.

The war ended in an armistice, not a surrender, so the commemoration of the end of hostilities at 11:00 on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 came to be known as Armistice Day rather than Veteran’s Day, as we now know it in the States.

A generation later, my father fought in World War Two. The U.S. entered the war less than a week before he turned 18.

He was a young boy who grew up ranching, and immediately volunteered for the Army Air Corps. They took him from central Washington and landed him in central China with General Chenault and the Flying Tigers. He worked on the planes to keep the pilots in the air.

A Flying Tiger squadron (Wikimedia)

A Flying Tiger squadron

When the war ended in 1945, he was about to ship back home when he got sick. Really sick. They transported him from an infirmary in China to a hospital in India, and he stayed there a long, long time.

At first it was all he could do just to lay in bed and try to eat something. After a while he got strong enough to go outside to sit in the shade with a couple of other patients. Eventually he was strong enough for day trips into town, but he was still under a doctor’s care and returned to the hospital after his short excursions.

The mustard gas didn’t kill my grandfather, and that’s a good thing since it meant he was able to come home and marry my grandmother, leading to my mom’s birth a few years later. And my dad recovered after a long hospital recuperation, and that’s another good thing since it meant he met and married my mom, leading to my (and my older brother and sisters’) birth.

Not everyone who goes to war comes home. I am grateful for those who have served and continue to serve.

And I am grateful for our God who promises to put an end to war.

He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:9-10.)


Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, Evgeniy Vuchetich (Wikimedia)

He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.
(Isaiah 2:4.)

The weapons of war will be no more and we will find peace in the presence of God.


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4 Responses to Armistice Day – a family’s legacy

  1. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for this tribute, Tim. I’m glad that you Americans and we Canadians are all taking time today to commemorate those who served their country and those who are still doing so.

  2. Pastor Bob says:

    What a story.
    To the (young) mother who worries about her son(s) going to war I share stories like this, and my family tree:
    Father served in Korea
    I served right after Vietnam
    My grandfather, an immigrant, served in the US Navy during WW1
    His father was in the Royal Army serving in the Boer Wars
    An uncle who served as a bomber pilot during WW2
    An uncle serving on the ground crew for B-24
    A cousin of my father’s who lost his life in Germany (WW2)
    The cousin who was “never the same” after Vietnam
    The cousin who served during Grenada
    The nephew who served in the US Army during the recent conflicts

    Their efforts (and mine) ensured that we have the rights we enjoy (and abuse?) today.
    -Hard to type without misting up…..

  3. LMM says:

    Great remembrance of men who gave a lot, to secure a future for us.

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