Operation Overlord

American Cemetery at Normandy

This coming Saturday, June 6th, Many will pause to remember the greatest invasion in the history of man, Operation Overlord. More than 160,000 young men, supported by 13,000 planes, more than 5,000 ships and leaving behind at the Cemetery at Normandy, 9,387 graves and an addition list of 1,557 names of those forever missing in action. I stood there one day and placed my tears on that beautiful green grass as I prayed and thanked our Lord for those who gave so very much.

There are moments that hang like great drops of time in our memory. Such a moment was on a Thursday when I stood and looked across the American Cemetery and the beach of Normandy. .

There was Lt. Murray Evans a young man from Lindsey Street who lived across the street from my family, charging up the beach in that first wave on June 6, 1944, leading a group of young American teens into the land of France and for most of them the Land of Eternity. His parents were wonderful friends of my family and I spent many hours on their front porch listing to Mr. Evans tell about his ‘boy’ Murray who is still on that beach in Normandy along with more than 10,000 other young Americans. Lt. Murray Evans was killed on the third day of that great battle and his family chooses to allow his body to rest on that green grass of American soil. I stood before eight graves each marked with the name unknown, I wept at those graves, saluted as an old man does and then knelt in the dew covered grass and thanked God for this ‘unknown’ who paid with all he had that some 68 years later I could stand before his marker and thank him for those moments of charging that beach and winning for the world another moment of freedom

Murray’s parents were good, honest people, who deserved to have their son watch them grow old but as the parents of more than four hundred thousand other young men were charged for our freedom the price of their son’s life.

As I looked across that beach I could see Mary Lou Graft wading ashore on the third day as a nurse with the first hospital division to establish a hope for those who would be wounded. Mary Lou walked from the beach of Normandy to the capitol of the Nazi Empire in Berlin providing care for our American troops. She often spoke to me of those days and those memories as she saw an enslaved world become free because so many were willing to give their all.

That bubble of time held me captured as I shed my tears for all the fallen, broken, and hopeful of those days. Thank you to all who crawled up that sandy rock covered beach to unlock for me and others the door of liberty.

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Published in: on May 31, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

True Value

True Value

Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:31

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a man’s true value could be known by those who know him at the time of his living? How nice it would also be if he were aware of their feelings.

But then that is not the way with life but it is the way with Christ.  Jesus shared with His followers that while sparrows were very cheap to purchase they were still so important that God always knew when they perished. Then he reminded them that they were much more important than many sparrows.

A man lives his life, does his best, follows the calling of God and in the best way he knows how he finishes the course, completes his task and then grows old. No one even notices the task, the finished path, and the worth of the old man. Somewhere people care for his body as his mind covers its self with fog and fades into the shadow as just another of the very old who must be cared for until death claims them.

Really does seem a bit of a shame that no one ever says, “You really did well.”  Maybe as Christians one of our callings would be to honor the value of other, to learn the attitude of gratitude and express it to those whom we meet.

It may seem like a small thing but what about the young man who carries out your groceries, the nurse who attends to you while you wait for the doctor, the child who looks up with those beautiful innocent eyes, just a hello, thank you, what’s your name.  Who knows it could really make someone’s day.

I still have a letter that a man, complete stranger, sent me when my picture was in the newspaper for an award I received in school.  Maybe his secretary sent the letter, I don’t know and it does not matter for when it came along with the article out of the paper and his words of friendship and congratulations it made my day and now all these years later I still remember that moment. We think little of sparrows but Jesus is touched by the death of each. Let us learn to be thankful and grateful to the point that it shows in our lives.

Ivan

Published in: on May 29, 2015 at 9:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Last Memory

Wayne could still remember the exact moment that he heard his father tell him, ‘that he was good for nothing and never had been and never would be’ it was at his birthday party when he turned seventeen.

His father had always been difficult, drunk, and too loud, in all his years of school he only had two friends who ever came to his house and they only once or twice. His mother had insisted on giving him a birthday party and while they had invited about ten people only six showed up, he was surprised for that was four more friends than he had. She had grilled hamburger in the backyard, made homemade ice cream and put up a boom box so they could play music.

About the time they had finished their meal, eaten the cake covered in ice cream his dad had come through the door shouting “What is going on around here, who do those cars out front belong to and who is playing that loud music?” His mother had tried to run interference but his father had shoved her aside and walking up into his faced began to shout the words of no good, and who did he think he was and who were these freaky kids.

The friends began to move away when they saw his father slap him, and each of them managed to leave before the full storm raged. He had never felt so bad, so discouraged, so humiliated, and so ashamed of his father and sorry for his mother. After the storm raged and his mother was hit and the grill turned over in the yard his father went to his room in his drunken state telling him to clean up the mess and calling for his mother to come upstairs. He had cleaned up the mess, packed a few things he needed and wanted he took the $300 dollars that he had saved and left.

After a lot of nights on the road, under bridges, in camps of the homeless, he had made it to a distant uncle’s house and they allowed him to stay with them until he enlisted in the Army. After six years of hard work in the army, doing his job taking classes and saving all the money he could he got out of the army and in two years had completed college.  The next ten years found him hard at work in a small upcoming company in New Orleans. They supplied packages of items that were needed by the workers on the oil rigs in the gulf and soon found a very profitable business. Over the eighteen years he had called his mother, hung up when his father answered and talked briefly when he could with his mother. Life at home was the same she said, his father had never mentioned his name and had never changed his ways.

He received a call from his mother telling him that his father was in the hospital dying, so without telling her he flew back to Memphis hoping that a final moment might bring some peace. It didn’t, his father had died soon after his mother had called and the storm of Wentworth Circle was over.

He begged his mother to come and live with him but she had a few friends in the community and the old house was paid for and all the investment she had.  Wayne walked into the backyard, remembered that night eighteen years ago and wept. Before he left he arranged for all the repairs to be made to the house, got his mother a new car and promised to stay in touch. For the next thirty years she received three calls a week, a visit each month and a nice check from her ‘no good son’, and even flew in a plane to New Orleans a few times to visit.

After her funeral he placed a marker that covered both her grave and his dad’s for no one had bother to do so in all of those years. He wept as he stood and looked at those two markers and realized that while they looked so much alike, they stood for so much that was different in his heart. In love he wept for his mother, in heartache he wept for his father.

Published in: on May 27, 2015 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

People I Have Known – Frank

I liked him the moment I met him, it didn’t take time, it didn’t take getting use to him, I just liked him from day one. While he was younger than me I still looked up to him and admired him like a little brother would his older brother. He could build anything from tall buildings, shopping centers, schools, and our church.

He was gifted. People loved him, children adored him, and he had to be a great father because I saw the way his children looked at him. His house was always filled with other kids who needed a bit of his care and love. He made guns that would shoot potatoes, thrill guys and scared moms to death. He was adored by my two boys and they loved him like a father and super hero. He came all the way to Belize to visit me for a weekend, fell in love with the people and left money to encourage children to attend school.

I went on a mission trip and watched him do small task with all of his skill, while he was use to being in charge, he listened to others, bragged on them and left his tools with the local men so that they could make a living for their families.

His wife adored him and it was mutual, he loved her with all his heart. He could fly a plane, sail a boat, and thrill a small kid because his heart was as big as his talents.

He set aside making a living in order to help us build a church, he invested not only his time and talent, he invested his living in the church building as well as all of the people who made it their place of worship. Frank was a man that could stand with me in the poorest home in Belize and ask God to heal the father of that home believing that God would and knowing later that He did.

Frank did only one thing wrong; he left too soon, I wept like a small child the night he died, I grieved in my heart for weeks, not because I was worried about his family or his soul, but because I would and still do miss him. Coming down from Kentucky he walked into our lives and my heart and now someday I will walk back into his life and see all that he has been doing since last I visited him in the hospital. I miss you Frank, I sure do.

Ivan

Published in: on May 26, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Comments (4)  

The Cover Up

Dad had a wonderful wood working shop in our backyard at 246 South Lindsey Street; you would not believe me if I had counted and told you how many tools and other things he had in that shop, it was great.

One of the items that just fascinated me was his wood fold up ruler. I am not sure why but I liked that ruler, I would measure everything I could, height, width, it didn’t matter I just wanted to play with that wooded fold out ruler.

Now Dad must have told me a hundred times, not to play with the ruler, but try as I may, it was just too much temptation for my young life.

Johnnie Barber and I were playing Pirates one day and I decided that the fold our wooded ruler would make a great sword, after all if you got in a real battle you could always unfold it more and make it longer, to me it was a weapon of mass destruction.

Well you know the rest of the story; Johnnie had a stronger sword than my wooded fold out ruler and with one swift hit my sword, ruler, was broken.

That has been more than seventy years ago but I still remember putting the ruler back in its place hoping that it would be a long time before Dad would notice.

I am not sure when he found it but one day while I was in the shop he reached to the spot and broken he found the wooded folding ruler.

He didn’t punish me, he simply looked at me and said, ‘I hope you understand now why you do not play with rulers, these are not toys but tools.’

His disappointment, his slow words, his look, man that was all the punishment I needed or could stand, I would have preferred to have taking a whipping, the look, my heart was broken because his heart was hurt and I loved him so much.

That is exactly how it should be between God and us. Ivan

Published in: on May 25, 2015 at 11:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Wall

The Wall

From the rice patties, the jungle, the fields of tall grass, the rivers, the swamps, the mud covered roads, and the small villages all across they traveled on the wings of angles, to a black wall in Washington DC, 58,205 of them, those young men of that time and placed there for our memory of what war cost.

I have visited The Wall, Vietnam Memorial, several times and always it leaves me with the same feeling of sadness and tears. Just to see the men who did come home, but never left the war, walk around The Wall and weep over its 58,205 names is more than enough to bring sorrow to your heart. These veterans of the war seem like lost souls on a sea of never ending sailing, unlike the men who came home to cheers, parades, praise, and glory from World War II, they came unnoticed, unnamed, almost held guilty by a nation greatly divided by the war. Many never found recover, never received relief, and never really left the war. I have been at The Wall in the daylight hours and in the dark of night and always it is the same, the unreturned are there searching for something that will never come.

On that wall is the name of six of the nine seniors from Morenci High School who all played football together and enlisted in July after their graduation only three of the nine came home. There are four sets of father and son, Pfc. Rex G. Chrisms escorted his father Lt. Rex Chrisms, USN, body home for burial and returning to Vietnam and was killed thirty days later. Twenty-nine sets of brothers, sixteen Chaplains, two who received the Medal of Honor; in all 154 of those named on the wall received the Medal of Honor. Some 997 men were killed on their first day in country another 1,448 died on their last day scheduled to be in the country. There are eight women, all nurses, there to give aid and comfort to our men and charged with giving their own lives. There is Sp4 James T. Davis, from Livingston, Tennessee who was the first person killed in battle, it was December 22, 1961, and members of his family are in our church at First Baptist Byrdstown.

But there could be other walls, 25,000 for the men killed in the Revolutionary War, 20,000, in the War of 1812, 13,283 in the Mexican American War, 625,000 killed in our own Civil War, then many others and the 116,576 left in Europe in World War I, the 405,399 who never came home from World War II and to that 36,516 in Korea and the 1,893 in Afghanistan and 4,484 in Iraq and you have a lot of walls and too many names. Today as we honor our fallen, we honor an unnumbered line of men and women who stood tall, paid the full price, and left this world far too soon. Thank you seems so little, but thank you it is until the hugs of glory. Ivan

Get your copy of 77 stories, “Just A Moment” by Ivan Raley  inraley@yahoo.com

Published in: on May 24, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pointe du Hoc

At 4:30 AM on June 6, 1944 225 men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder made their way toward the point of land which separated Utah and Omaha beaches the two primary beaches to be assaulted by the American forces on D-Day. Due to high wind and seas the Higgins boats were off course and delayed until the element of surprise was removed from the battle.

Their mission was to scale the more than 100 foot cliffs all at ninety degrees and put out of action the more than 300 Germans and the six 155 mm guns which they manned on top of the cliffs. These guns had a range of almost 15 miles and could strike both Omaha and Utah beaches as well as the ships brining the men to shore. They had to be taken.

The Higgins boats were armed with rocket launchers designed to fire the grapnels hooks to the top of the cliffs but because of the water soaked condition of the ropes many of the hooks failed to reach the top of the cliffs but the men made their assault and climbed to the top and took the Pointe.

A side note that one of the Frenchmen at Pointe Du Hoch told Carole and I about when we visited in 2012 was that the Germans did not know what the grapples were and thinking them to be some kind of bomb did not pull them loose and thus keep the Rangers from reaching the top.

The Rangers learned on reaching their destination that five of the guns had been removed and taken about a mile inland to an Apple Orchard in order to protect them from the navy shelling. The Rangers found them, and put all of the six guns out of commission and the battle.

Relief did not come for the 2nd Battalion as planned on that day and by the time it did arrived on June 8 there were only 90 of the 225 men left. Out of water and low on ammunition Lt. Col. Rudder and his men held on to their position and saved countless American lives from the German forces at the top of the Pointe.

“The Greatest Generation” held their ground, completed their task and I stood by many of their graves while in France. A great Memorial Day thank you to the men of the 2nd Battalion and countless others who did their best and gave their all that I might write this in a free country and send it across our world. – Ivan

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Published in: on May 21, 2015 at 11:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

To Dad

If my father were living today he would be 110 years old. Born in 1905 he saw the first car come to Dyersburg, Tennessee, the first plane land, and the first paved highway.

His dad had moved to Dyersburg to work on the railroad, but ended up working for his brother in law in construction. He was gifted in concrete work so he stayed busy putting the finishing touch on bridges and beautiful buildings. My father inherited his dad’s talents.

In the 1920 when there was no work to be found my father used his skill with concrete to make tomb stones, putting the names and all the information on them. He also made frogs, flower pots, and a large goose all out of concrete. He didn’t make much, but he did make a living.

He was too young for the First World War and too old because of children, he had four, for the Second World War. Dad went to work with Fowler Cooper at the Federal Compress where he spent the next forty years sometimes in the late 20’s. He later moved to Jackson with Mr. Cooper, there I was born and live all of my life until after college.

Unlike me he was quiet, talked so little that you could have put all his words in a small paper bag. Read everything he could get his hands on, and could make anything out of either concrete or wood; his skills were professional, I inherited none of them.

He loved the Lord, mom, all of his children, arrow heads, and his wood shop in the back of our home at 246 South Lindsey Street. He was first class in his dealings with people, never took one drink, never smoked a cigarette, and never chewed tobacco. He always told me if you don’t take the first one then you don’t have to take the last one.

I miss him, sometimes after 28 years I still want to reach for the phone and call him. If God had given me millions of dollars and told me to buy a father I could not do as well as God did in giving me to dad. I love you dad, I wish I were more like you, I would sure be a better person. Happy Birthday, I know you are well and all the family is with you, I am the only one of 246 South Lindsey Street still left, see you Dad, love you. Ivan

Published in: on May 20, 2015 at 11:28 pm  Comments (2)  

The Battle

As we cook our steaks and enjoy our family gathering together this weekend let us not forget to take a moment and remember the men and women who gave their all that we might have the freedom to celebrate a holiday weekend.

For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave. Psalm 86:13

The Battle

On March 26, 1945 Marine Sgt. Horace Avery listened as the Jewish Chaplain read this verse to about 35 men of the Marine 3rdDivision.  On the eight miles of ash called Iwo Jima between February 19 and March 26, 1945 6,825 marines and sailors were killed, our causalities were 25,851.

There were 22,060 Japanese on the island and 21,844 of them died. Horace had survived and this verse forever became a part of his life as it stuck in his soul like a sharp sword and in December of 1945 when he came home to treatment in an American hospital that verse still burned in his soul. For the next 41 years he shared his story of the love of God and the protection he received from the landing on February 19 until victory on March 26.  Iwo Jima had charged a high price for its eight miles of ash, but he had been spared the depths of the grave.

My father’s brother, Shelby, took part in that battle as a member of the crew of a Navy LST that carried troop in for the landing. He had pictures of ships on each side of him blown out of the water which he had made with his small brownie camera.

Twenty two Marines and Five Navy men received the Medal of Honor during this battle the largest number for any single battle in our nation’s history.

This was our first invasion of the Japanese homeland and as you can see by the number of only 116 living out of the 22,060 what it would have cost if we had been required to make a main island invasion of Japan.

Many have wondered if the island was worth the high price in lives it cost, I suppose no one can really answer that question but it helps to know that before the end of the war more than 2,400 B 29 aircraft made emergency landings on the island and their 27,000 crewmen all survived. Difficult to measure the price of one life beside another so let us give thanks to our Lord for those who did survive and gratitude and praise for those who made the greatest sacrifice.

Ivan

Published in: on May 19, 2015 at 11:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Have Been Injured

Yep, that is the bottom line, I am suffering from, not one, not two, but ten Phalanges fractures, all ten caused by a disorder known as Mental Block.

Certainly you understand with ten broken fingers I cannot type, no way, it just will not work. The doctor was extremely surprised that all ten of my digitals would be fractured, and that none of them would show any sign of a break in the x-ray, but after all, he said, if you can’t type then they must all be broken.

We examined all of my activities for the last five days and we cannot discover any reason for the fracture, but there they are, not one letter out of one finger, nothing, I just cannot put two words together to make a simple statement, so injured I am.

My wife called it mental block, but that is way too simple, with mental block you just go to sleep, dream something wonderful and hurry to type it when you wake up.  But with fractured Phalanges, no typing, no matter how many dreams, no matter how funny the guy was I sit by last night at a graduation, nothing, he talked on the phone the entire time, they had told us to turn off and put our phones down, but he was suffering from a broken ear, or brain. Maybe he was just rude, not sure, but me, me, I am injured, broken Phalanges, No blog, no story, nothing just a blank piece of paper.

I sure hope I heal before tomorrow, in the meantime look at some of the more than 1000 blogs already posted.  See you tomorrow, hopefully.

Published in: on May 18, 2015 at 11:45 pm  Leave a Comment