Chapter 16 Big John

Chapter 16
Big John

While at home I sat alone in the back yard and counted the blessing of just being there. My thoughts were of the future, but also of the past. While returning to New York on the Liberty ship one G.I. in particular gained my attention. I called him "Big John". I observed most of the 100 wounded but this one in particular. His left forearm had been half shot away. Although healed he would never have full use of it again. As our friendship developed aboard ship he asked that we exchange addresses. This was accomplished and at first I shared my hopes and life with him. It was easy to become excited to get home. John then explained without much expression that because he was raised in a "Home for Boys" he had nothing to return to. I wasn't prepared for what he was telling me and found no way to advise him or be anything more than a friend to him.

On this particular day while alone in the yard a Harley motorcycle (not many in use) was heard in the distance and very soon was throbbing in neutral at the foot of our driveway. "Big John" was glad to find me at home and immediately talked of my joining him in his new adventure -"Tour the States". For a brief time my mind processed some of his dream and its true I could have taken off but settling down and developing normal relationships was more important to me. I encouraged John to go for it as he had earned the right to find his place in any part of our free Country. I suppose he had need to say farewell and be encouraged before going on to his new life with confidence alone. Years later while humming the song "Come and go with me to my Fathers house" it came to me that "Big John" had followed me home, not to meet my family, but to learn about my FATHER's house. I had failed him, but trust that he kept seeking until he was satisfied with Jesus in his heart.

Having returned home for such a short time I felt strange that an urgency came to me that I should visit Stern's parents. The camera shop on Main St. was only a couple of miles away and I should make the contact and offer my condolences. At first it seemed natural and should be something I could handle. While getting ready I made a special effort at shower and shaving. My uniform pressed to a tee, boots polished, combat badge and ribbons all in place. On this occasion I would put my best effort into appearance and be conscious of my posture. Arriving at the camera shop I slowed as I opened the front door and tried to be somewhat casual as I approached the counter. Mr. Sterns appeared and once our eyes made contact he sensed why I was there. We shook hands as I expressed how much I respected his son and that we had a good relationship. At age 19 I had little to say, but did present him with a significant 76th Division newspaper. It describes where we had been and that we had traveled more miles and captured more prisoners than any other Division. Quietly Mr. Sterns explained that his only son died 50 miles from where he was born. We both felt the pain as his eyes filled with tears. Our meeting was over when he withdrew. I think it providential that I didn't meet the Mother. Only Messiah can relieve these sorrows. I learned that emotionally it was not possible for me to continue to contact others and share their grief. One Mother wrote back to me, Keller's Mom, and offered to pay me to visit her in St. Louis, Missouri. Also, I began to realize that the loss of our troops was gutwrenching each time they came to my mind. I asked the Lord to forgive me for not going.


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