Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Sighting of Saints

Yesterday afternoon, when we were visiting Teddy in Columbus, he decided he wanted to go to the bookstore at the mall to look for a movie. We said sure, so headed over there. When we got there, we immediately headed for the section of the store where movies and music are located.  There was about 25 or 30 folks of all ages there, so I assumed that the store must be having a great sale!

A few minutes later, the crowd began to clap loudly as a small group of older gentlemen walked in, obviously part of some tour group or another, as they each had a lanyard with identification around their necks. But this was no ordinary tour, rather an extraordinary group of men. These were some of the surviving members of those men we have come to know as the Band of Brothers, Easy Company from the 506th regiment of the Airborne Infantry. We know their story from the book, and the HBO series, but here they were in the flesh and blood.

Some walked in stiffly, their pain evident in their steps; others came with the aid of a cane or a companion.  Some had the stooped shoulders of age, every one of them had that dignity which comes to those who have dealt with life, looking it square in the face, through all the years.

It was a moving experience. Here were these heroes, being recognized, yes by current members of the 101st Airborne who were with them, but also by their peers in the crowd, and the children who could have been their grandchildren or great-grandkids busily taking their pictures.

As they were introduced and began to share some of their stories, it was if we were standing on holy ground.  For here were the men who, as part of that generation we call great, made it possible for me to stand in that store, for us to read whatever books we want, for me to travel freely, for us to have the kind of life we have.  These were the heroes who, knowingly and willingly, served to set us free from the fears and terrors of that evil which wanted to bind all civilization with its chains of prejudice and hatred.

Saints? These men would probably be as embarrassed to be called that, as they seem to be with the title 'hero.'  But surely, they responded to that command Jesus gave to the crowd at Lazarus' tomb when, after calling him from the grave, turned to the community around him and said, 'Unbind him, and set him free.'

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

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