By Sharnessa Sandén
Valley Bugler Columnist
Over the last two days we have continued a homeschool project for Chase (and let’s be honest – for ourselves, too Aaaand Weston eventually) that we started last year: interviewing WW2 veterans.
This time we (Chase, Sam, our cousin, Christie, and myself) had the absolute privilege of getting together with two amazing people who opened up their homes and lives and stories to us:
One, Lloyd Inman, is from our very own community, and flew 33 missions over Germany as a young man, even returning after one mission with around 240 anti-aircraft holes in his plane, and NO one was even TOUCHED.
The other, Maria Nelson, is from England originally (but a lovely local for many years, now!) and spent most of her teenage years building “sticky bombs” in factories in Manchester (heavily targeted and hit during the war), living on rations, housing American soldiers, and often sleeping in bomb shelters smaller than most of our bathrooms (roughly 4’x6’) with feet dangling in standing water all night.
They each shared story after story that I wish I had time to share on here, stories of tragedy and triumph, stories that belong in books and on films. (Ideas are-a-comin’)
The courage these people and millions like them chose to have, their tenacity and sense of justice and humility and strength and STILL the grace and joy and peace they carry, was overwhelming at times. Moved me to tears on more than one occasion as I sat there watching them and the weight of what they’ve seen and walked through hitting me…my heart aching that these TREASURES aren’t more “tapped in to” and that they’re not more honored and valued than they are in this culture that tends to only honor and value youth and superficial “beauty” and entertainment and “rights” and faster and faster technology and “things”. Often not valuing and remembering or even aware of *why* we can even enjoy some of these things in the first place. (Not that all of those things are bad!! But I think you catch my drift).
It was an tremendous honor to spend these hours with heroes.
Nelson rang me later Thursday evening (we’d met with her that morning)…she simply called to say, “I just want to thank you for what you’re doing. I love that you’re doing this…that you guys value that these stories get told, and so that no one ever forgets the atrocities that took place. Thank you. It means so much and I just wanted to tell you that.”
I’m choking back tears even after her first few words!!!!
And as a proud mamma, I have to share what she followed up with, “And I just have to say, Chase was a PERFECT gentleman!!! Oh my goodness, he is just a delightful little boy, and truly a perfect gentleman!! Would you tell him that for me?!”
(MORE tears!) Sigh…
We’re already making plans to go back…what a gift for my son to spend time with such beautiful people who’ve walked through more than we can fathom. We were humbled and inspired by them and more in awe than ever of what that generation faced and triumphed over, the sheer evil they stood up to and what grace they have on the other side of it.
“Beauty from ashes”…Jesus, you are so good.