“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12–13, NIV 1984).
My Musings – The following video reveals how my Uncle (Earl Brewer) was killed in action (KIA) in WWII. The family never was able to learn the circumstances, only that he was KIA somewhere in France and the date (July 7, 1944). That is until today. The man in the video was in Earl’s squad, and is telling the story of that engagement following a reenactment in the town (Beaucoudray) in France where it happened. He mentions Earl by name (about fifteen minutes into the video), heard Earl’s last words and was looking him in the eye when he died. The entire story is fascinating, and to the Brewer family enlightening. For many years we wondered what happened there? Eerily, this was my Uncle Earl’s last thought in life.
The man relating the story crossed the channel on D-Day+3 as a replacement in my Uncle’s squad (my Uncle was the squad leader). So it seems likely my Uncle came across with the invading forces on D-Day, landing on Utah beach with the rest of the 357th Infantry Regiment. Over two days in early July (6th nd 7th) they engaged the enemy in close quarter trench warfare (so close that each side could only use their artillery sparingly for fear of hitting their own troops). Our men fought until they ran out of ammunition and could fight no more. Unable to be re-supplied, their only option was surrender or be slaughtered. In one of those ironic “twists” of fate, there was an artillery explosion in their midst as the enemy lined them up. Having surrendered to avoid death, my uncle was struck in the chest by shrapnel. Moments later, he uttered his last words, something to the effect “what’s happened here?” And then he breathed his last.
Obviously, I never knew my uncle, my dad was only twelve when Earl was killed. The only image I had of Earl was his formal service portrait that hung in my grandmother’s living room. Even at an early age I was curiously drawn to that portrait. Wondering what he must have been like. What he might have accomplished had he not been killed serving his country. An estimated 75-80 million souls perished in that war, with countless spouses, parents, children, brothers and sisters left to grieve and wonder the same thing. My uncle’s family grieved twice. Once when they had that dreaded visit, (I regret to inform you…) and a second time (a few years later) when Uncle Earl’s body was returned to his final resting place. But there was a bit of joy in the grieving as well. In another of those peculiar twists of “fate,” my grandmother gave birth to her youngest child (there were twelve in total) on the very day that her oldest son was killed. One child drawing their first breath as another breathed their last.
My Advice – “What’s happened here?” or “what’s going on here?” We all go through situations where we could be saying the same thing. Perhaps not as dire or final as my uncle’s, but troubling nonetheless. We all are going through a tough situation now, with an enemy that is not quite as visible or recognizable as the enemy my uncle faced. In his situation, he knew exactly how to fight, and what not to do when he could fight no more. Today not so much. But the question, “what’s going on here?” is well worth contemplating? Is there more going on here than a deadly virus? I’m not getting political here, but what might God want us to learn and understand during this time of trial? Let’s make sure we learn it.
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. (Abraham Lincoln).