Memorial Day and a cardboard box
On May 22, I had the privilege to attend the veteran honors service for former U.S. Army Maj. Abe Baum at Arlington National Cemetery. Abe was a highly decorated World War II veteran and a long-time member of the Military Order of the World Wars. He passed away recently at home in Rancho Bernardo, CA where I had come to know him in recent years.
Abe commanded an armor column that fought its way through Nazi lines several times in France and Germany. They saw action at the Battle of the Bulge and liberated survivors from POW camps and a Nazi concentration camp. This had to be a deeply emotional experience for Abe, who had himself been raised in a Jewish family in New York City.
It was fitting for this American hero to be laid to rest with full honors just days before Memorial Day. His marble head stone will stand in solemn formation with fields of other comrades in arms. We pause to remember them all with deep gratitude each Memorial Day – and bow our heads in special tribute to those who never came home. And while we honor all who served our nation, we give a special salute to our World War II veterans. They are America’s “greatest generation” — a true national treasure.
I recently came across another treasure — a cardboard box full of Army and Navy worship books “for ship and field” published by the U.S. Government Printing Office in 1942. This box of books had been stowed for decades and was recently recovered at Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos.
As I wandered through the pages I could picture in my mind countless World War II veterans who used these interfaith handbooks during wartime chapel services. There are many spiritual gems buried in these old armed forces manuals, but for me the most moving was the closing prayer in the book. It simply read: “O Lord, support us all day long of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then of thy great mercy grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest, and peace at last.”
May we add our personal “Amen” to their prayer, and may we each keep the faith.
By Maj. (CA) Dave Korinek, Chaplain