Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Surprise - a providential meeting

The Lord, in His providence, has provided a very special Memorial Day for my wife’s family this year. So to honor our Lord and the men who fought for the freedom to worship Him, I share this story with the family's permission. I’m merely an ‘in-law’ but this family story goes beyond family ties.

Two childhood friends from Iola, KS, have sacrificed their lives for America.

Harry Lightner was young and never married. My wife’s family knew he served in North Africa and in Italy during World War II. They knew he was in the 180th and was killed in action, but did not know much concerning the circumstances of his death. Though research has been done and the family has tried to learn of the details of his death, very little was uncovered. Until this week.

Friday, my father-in-law Scott Shanahan came across an article in the local newspaper’s online edition, and quickly called his wife, Candie. The article featured a World War II vet, who will be honoring fallen comrades at a memorial service in Paola on Monday. The vet was a 'remains convoy driver' during the war. The article explains:

Much of his time serving overseas from 1946 to 1949 was spent in Italy, where he and his fellow members of the Graves Registration Service took on the unenviable task of collecting and identifying the remains of fallen soldiers.

Later in the article is the paragraph which made this story possible.

Because the remains would often be indistinguishable by sight, (he) said members of his unit used dental records, tattoos and military dog tags to identify the fallen soldiers. With tears welling in his eyes and a quivering voice, (he) talked about the time they identified the remains of a soldier as Harry Lightner — his childhood friend.

Candie phoned the veteran from the article, Mr. Carl Gregg, and had a good talk. Turns out he lives in the same town as the Shanahans, Paola, KS. It was quite emotional understandably. Ryan (Candie’s son) got to speak with Mr Gregg Saturday. He learned the nature of Harry’s death and also heard other stories about the family.

The Shanahans plan to attend the services Monday, now with even more knowledge of how their fallen relative died. How gracious of God to orchestrate this meeting!

At the beginning of this post, I said that two childhood friends had sacrificed their lives for America. One of them (Harry Lightner) died in service to his country before the age of 22. The other is alive today, but some would say he has been a ‘living sacrifice’ in the way he has served others following the War. He served his community through the local VFW in Paola, and has done my wife’s family an invaluable service by simply sharing stories about a beloved family member.

By the way, there is a letter that my wife’s family holds in very high regard, a special family artifact. It was perhaps the last letter Harry Lightner ever wrote. He reportedly wrote the same message to at least three different people. It included the words, “Don’t worry about me, I’ve accepted Christ as my Savior.”

The Miami County Republic article referred to above can be found here.

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