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May They Never Be Forgotten

Dec 14, 2015

The other day, I received in the mail a solicitation for a donation to a group dedicated to memorializing the veterans of World War II. Maybe you’ve received a similar solicitation. We are inundated with such appeals, especially at the Christmas-New Years holiday season. We often just toss them; after all, we can’t give to every worthy cause.

But something about this particular solicitation caught my attention. It wasn’t the various premiums that the group offered in appreciation for my expected gift. Rather, it was an old Gasoline Alley cartoon of the strip’s main character, Skeezix, now a grandfather, standing with his grandson, who is pointing at a file of soldiers as they parade past. Revolutionary War soldiers are misty, barely visible figures off the left marginal background. They are followed by faint but progressively more visible outlines of Civil War and World War I soldiers. Right in front of Skeezix and his grandson march the soldiers of World War II.

The boy points to the soldiers and exclaims, “Grandpa Skeezix, those soldiers are disappearing!”

Skeezix salutes the passing soldiers as he replies, “Don’t worry. With Dennis Peterson’s help, we’ll make sure they are never forgotten.”

That message struck me. I’m a writer, and I asked myself, What am I doing through my writing to ensure that our World War II veterans are not forgotten? More importantly, I asked, What am I doing through my writing to ensure that the lessons of World War II–hard learned by the hard fighting of our World War II veterans–are not forgotten but are learned and remembered by the next generation?

My uncle, Corporal Dillon C. Summers, was a tank driver for forward observers of the 391st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 3rd Armored Division. His unit fired the first artillery rounds into Nazi Germany. Between the first day after it landed on Omaha Beach shortly after D-day until the end of the war, it fired more rounds than any other artillery battalion. Dillon won two Bronze Stars for heroic actions somewhere in France or Belgium and the Purple Heart when his tank was knocked out by German fire. He survived the war to become a quiet but successful well driller and later a letter carrier and post master in the little East Tennessee community where he lived. He has since passed.

My father-in-law, Charles Dietterich, was a seaman aboard the heavy cruiser U.S.S. St. Paul, helping to man a 5-inch gun. He lied about his age when he enlisted and got in on the last months of the war. The pre-invasion bombardment of Okinawa brought him many close encounters with waves of kamikaze attacks. His ship anchored beside the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay, and he watched the Japanese sign the surrender papers. He later smelled the death of war in Tokyo. Surviving the war, he returned to the States and became a successful architect. He is now approaching ninety.

Neither of these men spoke much of their experiences or service. It was all too real for them, and they would sooner forget. But I must not forget. We must not forget. These men are part of the reason you and I are not now speaking German or Japanese. Their sacrifices made our freedom possible. We must ever remember–and teach the next generation to honor and remember, too.

By God’s grace and enabling, I pledge to use my writing as often as possible to ensure that I and others do not forget, that the next generation will know and continue to honor what those men and women did for us. Will you join me?

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