Friday, November 22, 2013

Wendell's Honor and Duty

When my Dad came home from serving a full-time LDS mission (he and his family paid for that mission.  Dad received no recompense for his service in the Southern United States.  He did not just teach people the principles of his Christian faith.  He put faith into action, serving others, many who did not share his religious convictions. World War II was raging.  Dad did NOT agree with the concept of war. He was a true pacifist...not afraid to do his duty to God and country, but well aware of the absurdity of traveling to a foreign land for the purpose of shooting total strangers.

On his mission he taught Christian principles of love, faith, duty, and honor...these types of positive ideals.  Now Papa was faced with the choice of waiting to be enlisted (Mandatory for men of his age and robust health) or he could sign up hoping to choose his type of service.  He chose to sign up.

Originally he was assigned to the "Flying coffins."  Those were the glider planes.  They were called that for a very significant reason.  The casualty rate of soldiers involved in glider service was abysmal.  Papa had a lovely fiance waiting at home for him.  He planned to return home to her alive!

He was a paratrooper (jumped out of planes), and an infantryman.  Not really the type of service to guarantee a homeward track but better than gliders!  He wrote home to his beloved parents after his first day of war.  He said, "Well I've now been involved in conflict.  It's terrible.  I lived.  Now I'm going to change the subject."

Duty, and honor were not some vague abstract ideas to my Father.  A pacifist in the trenches, Papa let duty guide his choices.  He didn't speak to me much of that period of his life.  He was very protective of the women (mother, sisters, daughters, wife) in his life.  He did not want them scarred with the images that tortured him for the rest of his life.

One story that he shared I loved.  There was a break in the battle action.  He decided to go for a short stroll.  (The Phillipine countryside was lovely.  Except for the wounds of war.)

As he began to walk across a bridge a young man about his age started up the bridge from the other side.  They caught sight of each other at the same time.  Papa and the Japanese man were supposed to be enemies.  They locked eyes, each wary of the other.  Papa said it was like both of them felt like it would be ridiculous for them,  two strangers to hurt each other...they both ran down the way they came.

Some might see that action as cowardice.  I see it as the brightest of courage.  Papa used to pray that he would never see anyone that he had wounded or killed.  It takes great courage to see a man who is supposed to be your enemy, and then let him live.

Papa told of one member of his platoon that delighted in the killing and bloodshed.  He took pictures of all his "kills," as he ascribed them.  He proudly showed the photos to all and any.  Papa tried not to look at them. One small glance was enough.  The soldier had pictures of women and children that he had killed proudly.  They might have been "Jap Sympathizer's" was his reasoning.

What a contrast in approaches to war.  One man delighted in the blood and killing.  The other man was only there because of his deepest respect of duty and honor. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor which was a part of Dad's country.  He was there in the Phillipine's to keep war from reaching his home shores.  To my Papa there were clear reasons for war.  To protect home, country, and to fight to protect his right for religious freedom.  Those were the reasons and the ONLY reasons to fight in a war.

Papa was very proud of his patriotic service.  He didn't vocalize much about that pride, or the honor and duty that took him to that war.  Yet when the 4th of July parade marched past he would get a tear or two in his eyes as the flag went past.  Proudly he would put his hand over his heart.

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