One week I was standing in the hallway talking to one of our older members. Bob was in his 80’s then. Just a normal guy, like any other senior man.
I asked, “Bob, what’d you do in the war?”
He said, “I was a ball turret gunner on a B-17.”
I stopped. “You were a ball turret gunner on a B-17. Did you fly any missions?”
He looked at me like “Uh yeah, that’s why I was there.” He said, “Why yeah, I flew thirty missions.”
I said, “You flew thirty missions in a ball turret of a B-17? What part of the war?”
He said, “It was 43-44.”
If you aren’t a history buff, you probably don’t know what he just said. During 1943-44, the air force flew daylight bombing raids over Germany. It was one of the most hazardous duties of the war. The attrition rate in Bob’s division was 78%. And the two most dangerous places on those dangerous missions was the tail gunner and the ball turret gunner. The ball turret was a glass ball underneath the plane. The rule was that you only had to do thirty missions. If you survived 30 missions, they sent you home.
Most never made that.
So every day, or every few days from December of 1943 until May, 11 of 1944, Bob would slide down under the belly of that B-17 and strap into the glass ball like and spin and gyrate like Hans Solo in the Millennium Falcon. But this was no fictitious Star Wars battle. This was real life. Kill or be killed.
“Bob,” I said, “thank you for what you did.”
He said, “I don’t consider myself a hero, I just did what I was told.”
I said, “That makes you a hero.”
I came away from that short exchange more grateful for Bob and his generation. They paid the price so that we could be free. We need to show some respect. And we need to be willing to make similar sacrifices when we are called upon.
I was reminded again that freedom is a costly thing. And each generation must be willing to buy it back.
The Bible says this: “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend. . .” That’s what Bob was willing to do. That what Jesus willingly did.
That’s the good news, now go have a great day.