Seeing the World in New Ways

7 Dec

There was an empty chair next to me at the Oktoberfest meal at the retirement community I attended tonight. An elderly gentleman walked up, looked at me and pleasantly asked if the chair was empty.  As he sat down, the first thing mentioned out of his mouth was his nice comments about my father-in-law and that they were both in WW2.  I wondered what the conversation would be like, and since I had nothing else to do at that moment, I asked him where he served, and, there began the story.

Roy is 92.  He landed at Normandy on D-Day and remembers very little about it, because as the landing craft was coming towards shore, a shell exploded in front of the boat and knocked him unconscious.  All he can remember from D-Day is the fact that the ring his father gave him, before leaving for Europe, was destroyed in the explosion.  He believes he had quite the concussion.
Later, during their drive through France with about 120 men in his company, he recalled being on top of a hill after a tough battle, on the eastern side of France, looking around and realizing they won the battle, but, of the 120 men, only the three of them were the left.  Nearly 117 men were either killed or taken away on stretchers, he never knew which.  With only three left in his company, they met up with another company and made their way to the mess tent the next day.  When asked by a sergeant why they were there eating at another tent instead of their own, he replied, “We’re hungry.” He turned to me and said, “Somehow”, he said, “we made our way into another company and we were able to eat some chow. We were hungry!!”

He then went to tell me that he dug more holes to hide in France and Germany than he cares to recall.  And, “after all that,” he asked me, “Why am I alive?  Why did I make it here back home?  I still don’t know and I’m 92 years old.”

After a few more amazing facts about how he made it out of Germany alive and back home, I had to ask him one question.  “Of all the things you can recall and did during WW2, what is the one thing that you walked away with?”  After a short stare, he looked at me and said, “No one has ever asked me that before.”  He paused for a few moments as he thought about it and then looked at me again and said, “God is good. That’s my takeaway. Yes, God is good.”

I enjoy eating dinner with the elderly there. It helps me see the world in new ways.

-Sean Doran

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