Monday, February 20, 2012

War Stories

For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed war stories told by World War II veterans.

My grandfather was in the Navy and had a number of memorable stories to tell his grandchildren. Most notably, he enlisted when he was 16 (lying about his age in order to provide for his family) and ran the movie projector on the destroyer he was stationed on.  I couldn't believe he had gone to war at such a young age, and I respected him for the sacrifices he was willing to make for his family and country.

Nathan's grandfather, Verle, was also a World War II veteran who served in the Navy. When I met Verle for the first time, he mentioned his time spent as a solider. Of course, I wanted to know more. For a solid hour, he regaled me with unbelievable, sometimes amusing, and even miraculous experiences.

This weekend, I asked Thelda, Nathan's grandmother, to help me remember some of the facts regarding one of Verle's accounts. After his funeral last Saturday, I had the distinct impression that I should write down this particular story. Hopefully, my children will read it one day and feel amazed like I do every time I hear it.

A poor boy, who was raised by his grandmother, Verle was not the most popular child in school. His threadbare clothing, gangly figure, and overall appearance made him the target for many bullies. At the young age of six or seven, Verle prayed for protection one day as he hid from a group of would-be attackers. As soon as Verle said his prayer, he felt comforted as he heard the words, "I will always protect you."

Years later, this promise of protection would come into play multiple times as Verle served in the Navy.  Three times, Verle was assigned to serve on submarines....and three times, Verle contracted measles and was unable leave. All three of these submarines were sunk.

Because of his exposure to measles, Verle was unable to serve on a submarine, which was his real dream. Finally, he was healthy enough to leave on a destroyer escort. As the escort went through enemy waters, it suddenly was attacked by a Japanese bomber. Verle, who was a gunner on the ship, fired at the enemy plane. The plane was so close to the ship that Verle could actually see the pilot's face. The men on board frantically tried to bring the plane down before an aerial torpedo could be launched. At the last minute, right before the plane crashed into the ocean, Verle saw the torpedo release from the plane.

He braced for impact.

And then suddenly, a rouge wave came out of nowhere and lifted the ship. The torpedo passed underneath the destroyer and caused no damage. Once again, Verle was protected. After these experiences, a number of Verle's shipmates told him, "If you get off this ship, we're leaving too!"

Thank you, Verle, for your wonderful example. Thank you for all of the hugs and the kindest smiles. Thank you for your service to our country, our family, and God.
You are missed.

(Thank you, Jenny, for the link to his obituary and the lovely post!)


  1. I am so glad you took the time to record his story. It makes a huge difference to know the tale vs just a name. It is such a gift for the future to be able to know the character and time of those who proceed us.

  2. He was such a wonderful man! So many good stories.

  3. that is such a heart warming story. I love how personally God speaks to us.


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