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Vantage point


Thank God for our veterans

 

This Tuesday is Veterans Day. I am thankful for our veterans.

Our military has been much in the public eye for seven years now. Our country is currently home to many young veterans of the war on terror, as well as older vets from prior wars. John McCain’s story of valor as a POW in Vietnam has even more squarely focused our nation on those who have paid a high price in the cause of freedom.

A former prisoner of war attended the last church I pastored. Cor Longiotti fought for the U.S. in Italy during World War II.

In battle after battle, Longiotti narrowly cheated death while watching his comrades fall. When a machine gunner was hit, Longiotti was pressed into service as a gunner with no prior experience. It was not a coveted post. Gunners were prime targets and usually didn’t live long.

“During an enemy mortar barrage,” Longiotti remembers, “a mortar landed just a few feet away, and the concussion literally lifted me up off the ground.”

Another time, a piece of shrapnel slammed into the back of his helmet.

Eventually, Longiotti’s 45th Division, exhausted and with heavy casualties, participated in the invasion of Anzio, a beachhead that became the scene of bloody, nonstop battle. When Longiotti’s machine gun was disabled by a blast, his imperiled group was flanked by the enemy and captured.

He was moved from prison camp to lice-infested prison camp in Germany. Food was meager, and water was rationed. Medical aid was virtually nonexistent. Longiotti’s weight plunged to 90 pounds.

On April 26, 1945, the American 3rd Infantry Division freed the prisoners. Longiotti had been a POW for more than 14 months. Today Longiotti, a resident of Ashland, Ore., says, “God helped me through it, though I never forget it.”

To all our veterans, we say, thank you.

To all our churches: Let’s do everything we can to support these men and women who have given so much. We needed them; now they need us.

Ken Horn

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