Pray for Peace

American-Military-Cemetery

As I write this article, yesterday was Memorial Day, a day for remembering our fallen women and men who have served in the armed forces. For me, it was also a day for looking toward a time when war will be no more and when we will no longer send our young people into the field of battle to die because we are either unwilling or uncreative enough to find the way to live together on this globe. For those of us who are Christians, our claim is that we worship the Prince of Peace and yet often, we find ourselves to be those who are most ready for a fight. Back in the fall of 1965 and the spring of 1966, I took Solid Geometry and Trigonometry at Spartanburg High School under Mr. J.P. Holt. The war in Vietnam was heating up, yet it would be another two years before the selective service was reinstated and what became known as the draft took effect. Mr. Holt, who had himself served on the battlefields of France and Germany, was extremely upset that we were finding ourselves in another war. Nearly every day, he would make the statement, “We are just killing off our youngest and brightest and throwing away the cream of the crop.” Sitting in his class and hearing those words, I did not fully comprehend his frustration nor his anger, but looking back over the past fifty years and the number of young people in our world who have been sacrificed because the politicians cannot figure out a better way is indeed disheartening. I think it’s important and I have taken the time to find the names of both high school and college friends engraved on the black stone of the Vietnam Memorial and grieved their loss. Two years ago this summer, I stood in the cemetery amongst the white marble crosses, stars of David, and crescent moons of our fallen soldiers at the American cemetery in Normandy and thought of parishioners and relatives who had come home from that great war. I remembered the words of Bob Jackson who, when speaking to the children at Clover Presbyterian Church, said “the real heroes are lying under those white crosses at Normandy. Those of us who got to come home were not real heroes.” Having known Bob and some of the stories he would tell, being in the first wave to land at Omaha Beach, getting himself through the Battle of the Bulge, and then being a soldier who guarded the prisoners of war during the Nuremberg Trials, he had certainly given his time in defense of his nation. Yet Bob also believed as I do that peace is better than war.  I have a greater appreciation of my old math teacher Mr. Holt and his frustration and his hope that one day we will learn to live together. .
Bill Neely