Culture

My Grandfather's Brush with Death While Fighting in the Pacific Skies

 

One of my favorite World War II stories about my grandfather is how during combat in the China-Burma-India Theater, he momentarily vacated his post to attend to his B-29 crew. He was the chief bubble gunner, and when he returned to his seat, he found it riddled with Japanese bullet holes.

For me, that story is a stark reminder of how unlikely it is that I even exist to relate this tale to my children, considering how many of my grandpa’s fellow soldiers died in the 1940s protecting the United States from powers intent on world domination.

Entire sections of America’s citizenry over the last 75 years—who by now have enjoyed full lives, had children, and died—might never have been born, but for flukes of timing and marksmanship. There is no imagining what the earth would look like had one “other guy” survived for every soldier that actually did.

For those who came after, the thought humbles us as we reflect that our very lives, which we often foolishly regard as the centerpiece of history, came to exist, not because of our own merit, but because of forces, not least of which is Providence, entirely beyond our control.

Memorial Day is for recognizing the greatest of those human forces: the valor, honor, and bravery of America’s fighting men and women. Their sacrifice is our victory; we would have none otherwise.

The lives of the fallen are represented in the lives our citizens choose to lead in their stead. I pray we will strive to be worthy of them. For starters, let us not forget to remember.

Wishing you a true Memorial Day!