A Memorial Day story for veterans and their families

By: 

Lorna Marquardt, Special to the Leader

“For love of country, they accepted death.” — James Garfield

Memorial Day is a special time to remember all those who lost their lives while serving in the United States armed forces. It has been said “Freedom is not free.”

That rang true for a lonely soldier who sat upon the desolate waste. He could hear the artillery in the distance, and all around him he could see the signs of war. They weren’t pleasant.

He didn’t flinch at the exploding shells, though. He remembered dragging two companions to shelter. Without regard for himself, he remembered crying out to Jesus to please save his friends.

He vaguely remembered being hit during that struggle, yet he felt no pain. He thanked God. Not for having no pain, but that he was able to help his two friends. He remembered the medics were right there to help them.

He remembered much more. He remembered sitting on a bridge, dangling a worm in the water with his bamboo pole and being excited when a fish would nibble at the bait.

He remembered the chicken and potatoes with gravy momma would fix. Surely they had to be the best in the country! Momma had passed away, but the memory was still treasured.

With more sadness he remembered Emmy Lou. Oh, the walks they would take and the talks they had. He was sweet on her, everyone knew it. She used to sit with him as he fished. More than once, she’d come to dinner and couldn’t get enough of that chicken, potatoes and gravy.

Emmy Lou had died in a car wreck, caused by a careless driver who had too much to drink. The soldier no longer blamed the person who caused it; he just felt sorrow for the loss.

Another shell burst overhead, and with tears in his eyes over the remembrance, he looked up. It was like a rainbow of color. He thought, “Isn’t a rainbow supposed to mean something?”

At that moment a grizzled old sergeant walked up. It was clear he’d been through too many battles and he wore the sadness in the wrinkles on his cheeks. Yet, when he spoke, his words were soft, comforting and calm.

“It is time to go, my son,” he said scarcely above a whisper.

“Go where, sergeant?” the soldier asked.

“Trust in me,” the sergeant said as he led the way.

The soldier did as he was ordered, and was quickly amazed as the sounds of the combat faded and the night gave way to brightness.

By the time the sound of fighting was left in the past, there were butterflies and flowers. All was incredibly beautiful.

Abruptly, the sergeant stopped and turned to the soldier, in the middle of a beautiful clearing.

“From now on, this will be your home,” the sergeant said.

“With due respect, sir, what about the men? What of the fight?” the soldier asked.

The sergeant smiled and it seemed to make the wrinkles disappear.

“Some of your friends will be joining you soon,” he said. “Others will join later, but your fight is over, and you won the biggest fight of all!”

Bewildered, the young man could only look at the sergeant. Then the sergeant held out a hand and said, “Behold, our general.”

The man turned and dropped to his knees when Jesus the Christ appeared.

“Your battle was a victory and a loss, my child. Your body didn’t survive, but your comrades did, thanks to you. My Father has said that he who believes in me shall not perish, but will have everlasting life. I personally thank you for helping God’s children.”

With that, Jesus turned and left. The awe stricken soldier was helped to his feet by the sergeant.

“Where are you taking me, sergeant?” the man asked, still not fully grasping being in the presence of the Lord.

“Please call me by my name, Gabrielle. And you will see soon enough,” he replied.

On the edge of the meadow was a little stream, and on the banks, waiting … was Emmy Lou! Beside her was his bamboo pole. His teardrops fell without shame as he rushed to her, clutched her to his chest, and at last, he knew he was really home.

“After fishing, maybe we can go get some chicken, potatoes and gravy,” she said to him. “Your momma has a special dinner planned just for tonight.”

On this Memorial Day, remember to thank a veteran!

The answer to last week’s trivia question — Who owned the Shawano News Agency in 1959? — is Irvin Rosenberg.

This week’s question is: In 1974 there were nine beauty shops/salons in the city. Can you name them?

Lorna Marquardt is mayor of Shawano.