Jack enrolled in hospice when he was ninety-six. Jack and his wife of seventy-two years, Willie Mae, were born and raised in Mississippi. Jack was a member of “The Greatest Generation”, those who grew up during The Great Depression and went on to fight in WWII. Willie Mae recounted, “Jack was drafted when he was nineteen. We had only been married about a year when he was sent to Germany. He was there for three years and three months. Jack wasn’t a Christian when he went; he became a Christian about two years after he got back. He’s read the Bible so many times he knows it by heart. He’s taught Sunday school since 1954, and he also taught Wednesday Bible studies. He taught Sunday school the Sunday before he went to the hospital four months ago, and he’s never been able to come back home since.”
Jack and Willie Mae’s daughter, Betsy, reminisced: “Daddy was a farmer. They said we were poor but I never knew it. I loved it. Mom said that when she and dad were young a man came door-to-door selling Bibles. She wanted to buy dad the really pretty Bible but she didn’t have any money. So mom asked the man if he would take a chicken in exchange. He thought a minute and then said yes. So mom gave him the chicken.
“Some relatives who were working in construction stopped by the farm and inspired dad to go to work in construction. So when I was nine, we sold everything we had, we literally ‘sold the farm’. We loaded up the car and headed to Barnwell, South Carolina where there was an atomic energy plant. All we had were our clothes. Dad, mom, my little brother and I moved into an 8 x 29 foot trailer in ‘Pecan Grove Trailer Park’. There were pecan trees all around and pecans all over the ground, so I put the pecans in my little red wagon and took them to the store and sold them. We also lived in Delaware and Memphis and in Piketon three times, and the last time dad stayed at the A-Plant in Piketon and retired as a welder.
“Dad did really well until seven years ago (age 89) when he fell off the porch and landed on his neck. They told him in Columbus that he would never walk again, that he was paralyzed. Dad was transferred to Bristol Court for rehab. After five months they decided to discontinue the therapy because it wasn’t working, but the next morning dad stood up to the walker. Dad is a strong determined man and after about eight months of therapy dad made it back home. The therapist told us that dad was the hardest worker he had ever had and that he could have never made it back if it wasn’t for his determination.“
About two months ago I stopped by to visit Jack and Willie Mae. Little did I know that it would be my last opportunity and privilege to have a heart-to-heart talk with a member of “The Greatest Generation”. Jack reflected upon the war as he held onto my hand: “I was there at the Belgium border, at The Battle of the Bulge. I drove a Jeep for the head man in our department.” I asked Jack, “Was General Patton in charge?”, and Jack replied, “Yes. He was called up from Southern Germany to Belgium to lead the campaign. He saved the war.” Then I asked Jack, “Was General Patton as tough as his reputation?” Jack replied, “He was tough, but he wasn’t too tough to pray.” Jack explained, “It was Christmas morning and there was a low lying fog so General Patton climbed out on the front of his tank and prayed that God would lift the fog so that we could see how we needed to position ourselves. And that is exactly what happened, the fog lifted. I didn’t see it but I believe it.”
Since I didn’t see it either I thought I’d research it. Following are excerpts from one of the many postings titled, “When Patton Enlisted the Entire Third Army to Pray for Fair Weather” (www.historyonthenet.com): “On the morning of December 8, 1944, Patton telephoned the head chaplain, Monsignor James H. O’Neill: ‘This is General Patton; do you have a good prayer for weather… Chaplain, I am a strong believer in Prayer. There are three ways that men get what they want; by planning, by working, and by Praying… But between the plan and the operation there is always an unknown… God has His part, or margin, in everything. That’s where prayer comes in… We must ask God to stop these rains. These rains are that margin that holds defeat or victory. If we all pray… it will be like plugging in on a current whose source is in Heaven. I believe that prayer completes that circuit. It is power…’”
History on the Net
Chaplain O’Neill composed a prayer on a three-by-five-inch card. The 664th Engineer Topographical Company reproduced 250,000 cards bearing the prayer for fair weather along with Patton’s Christmas greetings at the bottom and distributed them to the allied troops. Following is the prayer: “Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”
Moses, wrote, “The Lord is my strength and song…He is my God, and I will praise Him… the Lord is a man of war,” (Exodus 15, Song of Moses). King David wrote, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress… the God of my strength, in whom I will trust…For by You I can run against a troop; by my God I can leap over a wall… You have armed me with strength for the battle,” (2 Samuel, chapter 22). And Samson prayed, “Remember me I pray, strengthen me, I pray, just this once,” (Judges 16:28). Seeing how these valiant, rough and rugged men were not “too tough to pray”, don’t you think it would be prudent for us to follow their examples?
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected] You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.