The Battle of the Bulge which began on December 16th, 1944 and continued well into January of 1945 in the Ardennes Forest was the final major German offensive during World War II. The Americans suffered over 70,000 casualties, and some 19,000 deaths during the bloody battle. The fighting of course took place in bitterly cold weather.
I recall telling an old WWII Vet several years ago that I had watched the movie: The Battle of the Bulge on television. His response: I was there, son…. Unfortunately the opportunities to visit with World War II veterans are becoming less and less all of the time. I cherish such privileges now like never before.
Thursday morning I will officiate at John Thomas’ funeral service here in Granbury. John was born in 1923. When he was 18 years old, he hitch hiked to Ft. Worth to sign for the US Army Air Corps. His dream was to be a pilot. Quite naturally John was terribly disappointed when his eyesight kept his dream from becoming a reality. But there was a war on, so he was accepted to the Army Air Corps do maintenance work on the bombers being deployed to Europe prior to the invasion of Normandy on D-Day in June of 1944.
John was fortunate. His unit came under heavy artillery fire during the Battle of the Bulge. He braved the cold by wrapping his feet in newspaper. But he survived. His two buddies that accompanied him to Ft. Worth to enlist actually became pilots. But they were not as fortunate. They were both killed in action.
Officiating at funeral services for World War II veterans has been one of the real privileges of my career. They are a special group of people. One of these days I will no longer have that honor. All of them will be gone. The youngest veterans among that group will turn 86 this year.
I think it would serve all of us well to take a few extra moments to speak to the older gentlemen in the grocery store wearing caps that signify the ship they served on during World War II. Let’s pause before we get impatient with them in traffic. Don’t rush through the halls of the nursing home. Take a few moments to speak to the old guy who resides in a wheel chair and shakes uncontrollably.
Tomorrow I will prepare for John Thomas’ funeral service. I already miss him. What a blessing it has been to rub shoulders with members of The Greatest Generation. Tommorrow I will think twice before getting bent out of shape with the old guy in the car in front me, who is about to drive me crazy with his slow driving!