Saturday, July 4, 2009

Summer Shorts - Raised From The Dead

By Pat Browning

Three years ago I asked if anyone on the DorothyL mystery listserv knew whether a small book or journal in a pocket could deflect a bullet.

Shirley Wetzel of Comanche, Texas e-mailed me a true story of a World War II steel-covered New Testament that saved her uncle’s life.

Shirley wrote:
He had his steel covered N.T. in his shirt pocket when he was shot multiple times in France in WWII. He woke up in a room full of very quiet men, with a tag on his toe. A nurse heard him groaning and ran to get the doctor. Uncle had more than a bruise on his chest, but the bible did stop (a bullet) before it penetrated his chest.

When they opened (the book) it was to a verse about "the young man was raised from the dead.” My wild and rowdy uncle became a preacher after the war -- he took it as a Sign.

In a follow-up e-mail, Shirley told me the rest of her uncle’s story.

It is a favorite story in our family. There's a bit more to it -- right after my aunt told him goodbye, she found (the New Testament) in a store she was walking by. Something told her she needed to get it for him. It arrived in the last mail shipment he got before the ship sailed, and he kept it next to his heart until the day he was shot. He lost most of the possessions he'd carried with him, but the docs saved that for him.

There was one more thing that made him decide he should become a minister -- his unit was under fire, and one of his soldiers was wounded just a few feet from the others. They couldn't get to him because of heavy gunfire, but my uncle was close enough to talk to him. The young man began reciting the Lord's Prayer, calmly making his peace with death. That made a big impression on his buddies.

And one more part to (my uncle’s) story – his unit was on the way to the Battle of the Bulge, and stopped in a small French village. He parked his tank near a farmhouse and got out. A little girl saw the soldiers and starting screaming. He slowly walked over to try to comfort her, and he gave her that GI staple, a Hershey bar. Her mother came out and explained that some German soldiers had come a few days before and shot her father in front of her. My uncle's unit stayed there a few days and made friends with the villagers. On the morning he was preparing to leave, he heard a knock on the door of the tank. It was the little girl -- she took a barrette out of her hair -- probably the most prized possession she had left -- and gave it to him. It's one of the things he lost at the hospital, but he never forgot that little girl.

Shirley and I both have an interest in World War II and one thing led to another …

She sent me photos and material about her trip to Wales, where her mother's first husband, Lt. Hulbert Robertson, died in the crash of a B-26 Marauder bomber on June 4, 1943. The crew had left North Africa on the last leg of a flight that began in Cuba, and they were headed for an RAF base in England. They ran into fog and crashed on the coast of Wales. Shirley included a wonderfully detailed and poignant story she wrote about her trip and about the crew. I finally got the material sorted and organized and it is now on my blog.

And that is a story for tomorrow – Sunday – as part of this Fourth of July holiday weekend.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

What an amazing story! And the perfect one for Independence Day. Thanks for sharing.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Wendy said...

What a great story, Pat. I'm so glad Shirley shared that with you so you could find it a wider audience. Thanks for the perfect ending to the 4th!

Jean Henry Mead said...

Yes, Pat, a terrific Fourth of July story and I love the artwork!