At first brush, you might think them enemies, but, in truth, that was not the case. They didn’t hate each other. In fact, they never met. But had they met, they would have liked each other.
The Englishman signed up for the Army because he thought it was his patriotic duty to do so. Each morning, he was given 3 bullets. Each night he had to turn them in. He was captured at Dunkirk and forced to march into what was once East Germany. Many of the men with him did not survive the march.
At the prison camp, he was assigned to work in the sugar-beet fields. Often food was scarce and he relied on potato peelings and other scraps to survive. He credited the Red Cross food supplies for saving his life. There’s a photo of him with a group of men on his work gang. He looks emaciated. He had diphtheria.
Considering it also his patriotic duty, he escaped three times, was recaptured each time and sent to a new prison camp. Near the end of the war, guards deserted the camp and he made his way back to England. He’d spent five years as a prisoner in Germany, but he held no animosity toward Germans.
The German just did what he was ordered to do. He was just a boy of sixteen when he was conscripted into the German Army. Shortly thereafter he was sent to the Russian front where he was captured and sent to work as slave labor in the Siberian mines. Many of his colleagues died from the atrocious conditions. His incarceration lasted seven years.
The Englishman was my father who passed away much too soon at the age of 73. The German is now my 87-year-old neighbor. He has heart problems and cancer. They’re both fine men who went to war for their countries.
This Memorial Day, I remember them and all other brave members of the armed forces, living and dead, who sacrificed. And I pray for a miracle: that one day we will all become enlightened enough that the world will have no more need of wars.