Friday, December 4, 2015

Delivered from Death

He pushed the back cast in the closet so he could do his exercises each morning on the bedroom floor.  I would sit and watch him. I didn’t know at the time that the injuries to his back and deep scars in his arms and legs were from shrapnel.  I’m talking about pieces of metal lodged deep in my father’s body after being wounded by a German 88MM artillery shell at Monte Cassino in Italy during WWII in December, 1944.

My father fought as a Head Quarters Battery Commander of the 32nd Division Artillery coming out of Wisconsin, the renowned “Red Arrow Division.” They had joined the 5th Army, having landed in Africa and chased Rommel and his tank minions up and out into Sicily and the boot of Italy. They trudged through the deep winter snows moving day and night to overcome the evil German Army.  At the Abbey of Monte Cassino they were stopped as the Germans were well entrenched and anchored up on the heights of the Abbey, an ancient Catholic sacred place. The battle raged from January 17- March, 1944 as the “Winter Line.”

My father had joined the Army in 1942, having just graduated from Brown University. After signing up, along with many joining the battle, he was chosen to go through Officers Candidate School (OCS) in Fort Beauregard “Disregard,” Louisiana because of his skills in Mathematics. There he would meet another man, Richard, “Dick” Dewey from Akron, Ohio. They would grow close and eventually met a couple of sisters from Estherville, Iowa while they were on an evening leave. Turns out that they made their choices and married the girls before shipping out for the war in Europe. My father married Genevieve Alice Horswell, and Dick, Joyce Horswell, her older sister. They were both spunky and obviously pretty game or crazy to marry a couple of guys leaving for a war zone with no returning ticket. They honeymooned for the weekend at an old Victorian era hotel in Shreveport, Louisiana.  It was November 21st, 1942.

 Jim MacGillis, Battery First Sergeant found my father’s mangled body under an overturned jeep in a crater caused by the artillery shell blast. He was badly wounded. MacGillis commandeered a jeep. After tying a white flag to the radio antenna he headed out over the rough terrain through the German lines to a British field hospital where first aid was applied. No one fired at them.  My Dad was shipped home on a hospital ship. He languished in hospital for six months, receiving 18 operations to remove shrapnel and repair broken bones and flesh. He lost use of his right hand, was in a full body cast and not able to walk. But he lived using his left hand and enduring ceaseless pain from his injuries. He received a bronze star and purple heart for his bravery.

A curious nuance to this story occured some 40 years later. I was a Captain in the 32nd Division Army National Guard in Wisconsin. Our Brigade commander was now Colonel James MacGillis, the same man who had saved my father for under the jeep in Italy and driven him to safety. This grizzled older war veteran was still a caring and compassionate man.

God had delivered my father through the valley of the shadow of death. “I sought the Lord, and He delivered me from all my fears…the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him…The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:4,7-8,17). We have a God whose eyes are looking for someone to save. “He is mighty to save.” (Zephaniah 3:17).  Yes, the Lord came to earth to save (1 Timothy 1:15).  He is more than able to save us from all our sins and pain and darkness and lift us from the pit as Psalm 103 reminds us. He lifted my father from the pit of death. As Psalm 23 tells us “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil because His rod and His staff comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4). It is in the valleys that the water flows and the flowers grow. He is with us in the valleys and will never leave us or forsake us.  Put your trust in God; trust also in me Jesus said. In John 12:36 Jesus said, Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of the light.” Today is the day of salvation, put your trust in God while you can for tomorrow may never come. My father rests in heaven in the light of God. “He fought the good fight and finished the race, he kept the faith. Now there is in store for him the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, awarded him on that day-“ (2 Timothy 4:7-8 paraphrase).

Note:Several weeks ago I wrote of my trials in Alaska, where God delivered me through several deadly situations.

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