Last night or tonight, somewhere in America, a peaceful night of sleep is disrupted by a nightmare.
This unwanted intruder is courtesy of a broken promise.
Before reporting to dangerous military duty, a wife, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a friend looked their husband, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend in the eye and said: “Promise me that you will be careful, and promise me that you will come back.”
No matter where America has sent its military personnel into perilous conflicts, sadly, the coming back part of the promise has been broken too frequently.
War breaks promises.
Soldiers, sailors, aviators die.
No matter the depth of training, quality of equipment, and individual skills—war breaks promises.
I am certain that my grandparents, Charley and Izetta Pike, had that conversation with their oldest son, Boyd.
During World War II, Boyd was a sailor on the destroyer, the USS Simms. Boyd did not come back to Greensboro, North Carolina as promised. His body disappeared into the Coral Sea after the Simms was attacked by Japanese war planes.
The Pikes were God fearing, church going people.
I wonder how my grandparents felt about God when they were notified that Boyd had perished.
Without question, my grandparents would have held on to these words from Psalm 91 verse 11: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”
They like other families were counting on those angels to guard their sons and daughters. But, war breaks promises, and God’s angels.
Years after Boyd’s passing, my father revealed a nightmare where he could hear Boyd desperately calling for his help. I don’t think my father ever forgot that helpless agony.
When a family loses a loved one to military duty, the agony never leaves.
My friend, Mike Cross, served our country in the Vietnam War as a sergeant in the Marine Corps. Mike rarely speaks about his tour of duty in Vietnam. I respect his silence.
At some point during our friendship, Mike gave me a small paperback book—A Paratrooper’s Faith.
This book started out as a “pocket-size notebook” that had been put together by the father of George Bowler Tullidge III, Sergeant of 507th Parachute Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division.
George’s father had filled the notebook with “poems, excerpts, and Bible verses.” The family’s hope was that the book might help George in combating the mental fatigue of his duty.
On June 8, 1944 during the invasion of France, twenty year old George Tullidge broke his promise to his family in Staunton, Virginia.
Near St. Mere Eglise, France, allied troops needed to secure the main road. This road came under attack.
George responded by setting up a light machine gun and holding off the enemy. Though wounded during this attack, George refused to withdraw until the position was secured.(Descriptive extract regarding George Tullidge’s Bronze Star Medal)
In December of 2021, my wife and I attended her nephew’s wedding in Hawaii.
While in Honolulu, we made two significant stops—Pearl Harbor and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Each site carries a quiet, honored dignity on the shoulders of their meticulous grounds.
The perfection of the displays and the calm beauty of the landscape are well removed from the hostile environments that created these memorials.
While walking the grounds of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, I came across the following quote on a plaque. The words are attributed to a Chaplain from the 6th Marine Division at a cemetery in Okinawa in 1945:
“This is not a bivouac of the dead. It is a colony of heaven. And some part of us all is buried here.”
Those words, reaffirmed for me a simple truth— we can never forget the sacrifices buried in Memorial Day.
We must vow to always remember the men and women who broke their promises for our freedom.