On this Veteran's Day weekend- as we remember 100 years since the conclusion of the First World War -
I’d like to share a borrowed story, about finding peace in the midst of adversity.
An old man used to visit an old broken pier on the seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night until his death in 1973, he would go there slowly and slightly stooped with a bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would come to this old man and he would feed them from his bucket.
Many years before in 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver a message to General Douglas MacArthur. Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost. Fuel dangerously low, the men ditched their plane in the ocean. For over a month the Captain and his crew would fight the water and the scorching sun, spending many sleepless nights as giant waves threatened their raft. But above it all, their most formidable enemy proved to be starvation. With all their food long gone, it would take a miracle for them to survive. In Captain
own words, "the pilot William Cherry read the service from the Book of Common Prayer, a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. In the oppressive heat with my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep off the glare, I dozed off. Something landed on my head and I knew that it was a sea gull. I don’t know how I knew. I just knew. Everyone’s eyes were on that seagull. Food, if only I could catch it. And the bird sat there calm and still as I slowly reached up and captured it in my hands" And the rest is history. They ate the flesh and used the remains for bait to catch fish. Their bodies sustained and hopes renewed because a lone sea gull. This bird uncharacteristically, hundreds of miles from land, had offered itself as a sacrifice. Captain Rickenbacker never forgot. Thereafter, round about sunset each day, on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast, until he died, you could see a
white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent
old man walking, with a bucket in hand full of shrimp, to remember the one who gave itself without a struggle.
May we too never forget the sacrifices of those who serve.