In a few weeks it will be Veteran’s Day.
A day for all to remember and honor those who paid the ultimate price exacted by freedom.
A day to weep for the evil among us that chooses war rather than peace, that chooses to destroy life rather than to make it flourish.
And a day to pray that “war may be no more,” and that peacemakers may be blessed.
One day the young boy saw planes falling out of the sky. And bodies falling out of the plane. Because there was war in the sky too.
Dozens of bombers were flying high overhead, escort planes circling around them constantly like sheepdogs.
Then he saw the German planes suddenly appear out of nowhere and racing fast to get to the bombers before they’d be spotted. Three got tangled up into dogfights with Allied planes before they could penetrate.
He stood there, hardly breathing, as he watched the planes chasing each other, like a dog chasing a rabbit, shooting at each other, and then one got hit and there was smoke and the plane came tumbling out of the sky and he saw a parachute come floating down too.
But then he watched with horror as two enemy fighter planes got to a straggling bomber. The bomber crew didn’t have a chance.
He saw puffs of smoke and the bomber went out of control and no parachutes came out and the plane looked like it was going to come down right on top of him and two other bombers now were hit too and hurtling down, and he stood frozen to the spot as the first plane plunged into the ground less than a mile away.
Twelve Allied Air Force soldiers were buried in the churchyard of his town.
Years later the boy, now adult, visited Margraten in the southern part of the Netherlands.
He walked among the 8300 American soldiers who lie buried there, young vibrant lives cut down by a crazed enemy that sought to destroy the freedom of others.
He wept for those lost lives and their loved ones who never held them again.
And then he remembered the young boy who one day after the war, on his way home from school, encountered an old white-bearded gentleman walking toward him, asking directions to the cemetery to visit his son’s grave.
And he remembered the belt buckle he had found in the burned-out wreckage of the airplane that he and his friends sneaked into when the German guards weren’t looking.
He had kept it for a long time. And every time he had held it in his hands, he remembered the feeling and the smell of death inside that ruined hulk.
For that’s what war is all about: death.