Sunday, November 11, 2012

Armistice Day

"At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" ... we will remember. 

Today is Veterans Day.  As many of us know, it's a Federal holiday that has evolved to be called Veterans Day, but it was initially called "Armistice Day," to commemorate the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

My grandfather, Thomas Jackson Kolb Funderburk, served the United States in World War I.  I was only a young teen when he died, so it never occurred to me to ask him about his overseas service.  But one night, as he lay in a hospital bed nearing his death, I "served" alongside him in Europe: he was unaware of his granddaughter's presence, but rather seemed to regard me as one of his Army buddies.  The experience scared and fascinated me!  So many memories he'd suppressed, and he seemed to be reliving them.  Although I couldn't really understand what was happening, and still don't, I have vivid memories of that night.

So the memories I'm going to share in this Note are those of my grandmother, from the day the Armistice was signed.  My grandparents had been married only a short while when he shipped overseas.  During his absence, she went to live with an older sister and their father in Jacksonville, Florida ...

My grandparents on their wedding day, October 10, 1917

"One day Papa came in from the bakery where he was working and stood by the table and raised his head up and thanked God.  The Armistice had been signed – where or how Papa learned of it, I do not know, for we had no television or radio.  But there Papa was, thanking God; he said, 'Thank God my boy will come home.'

"Soon we all heard it, for cars with horns blaring were riding up and down the streets saying, 'The Armistice is signed!'

"But it was four months before Jack came home.  He had been in Headquarters Detachment, riding a motorcycle to carry orders to the front.  His commander was Major Oral E. Clark, of the Fifth Division supply train, and Jack thought so much of him.  After the signing of the Armistice, he was assigned to the Army of Occupation in Luxembourg and helped to entertain the troops until they were shipped out.  He played the cello and sang in a band, and they (along with local girls) put on dances and plays until all were gone but his detachment.

"Jack told us so many things that happened while he was overseas; he said that often, as he rode, bombs would explode, first on one side, then the other.

"In one particularly graphic description he wrote of a trip down the Rhine.  The story I like best, though is the experience of a young man in his outfit.  It tells us that God does hear and answer prayer:

"In November of 1918, after the Armistice was signed, the outfit moved eastward, behind the retreating German army.  Jack had been billeted in Luxembourg for months, enduring long forced marches through heavy snowfall.  A young man named Edmond became ill and had to fall out, but later caught up with the outfit and went supperless to bed on the floor of an abandoned schoolhouse.  The next morning they moved again to better shelter – with a roof, walls, and a floor, and on old iron stove, and they managed to keep warm, after a fashion.  Each morning they went out in the deep snow. Edmond developed a sore throat, which turned into tonsillitis, and nothing seemed to help him.

"One day just before Christmas a runner came from headquarters with orders to transfer five men to 'C' Company.  No one wanted to go, but Edmond was to be in charge.  He assigned four other men, and as they were rolling their packs, he slipped into another room and, being a Christian, dropped to his knees and prayed, 'Dear Lord, I do not have the strength to go anywhere … '   It was then he was aware of the Lord’s presence.  He said it was not something he could see, but he could feel the Presence – it was so real.  In his heart he heard Him say, 'I will go with you.'  That was all.  But that was enough.

"By night the transferees arrived in the village of Baden. There was a room in a house, a kitchen, and a German housemother who spoke broken English.  God gave Edmond a feather bed for Christmas – best of all, He taught the reality of His unfailing presence."

Thank you PaPa, for your service in the War to End All Wars. Thank you Daddy, Uncle TJ, Uncle Dutch, Uncle Mike, and Uncle Ben, for your service in the War after that. Thank you to all who have served, and who are serving, and who will serve ... we will remember.