My godfather's name is Jim Swenson, and Uncle Jimmy died early in my life (sometime while in college or early in my career I believe). We met when we traveled to Minnesota in my childhood, but my age distanced me from real interaction with him, except early in my college years I when I went to visit. At that point, Jimmy, a saxophonist and a member of a Big Band from the Big Band era, sat in the basement with me and my cousin playing reel-to-reel tapes for the better part of a night as Jimmy expounded on the virtuosity of the music he was playing. Jimmy's voice had a sound that you expected from a jazz musician. I, too, had played a sax in a Big Band in high school, and our band won several awards. So, I had an appreciation for the music he played, his discussion, and his analysis of what made it great, as did my cousin.
During the recent family reunion though, I learned something of Jimmy that made me stop in my tracks, and it will you as well. Jimmy served in a tank crew in World War II, either as a commander of it or a driver, in (are you ready for this?) North Africa and Italy. If you know the war, you know the blood shed and outright devastation that occurred there, and American tank crews were particularly vulnerable (see the movie "Fury" for a realistic taste of that experience). The German tanks were, in a word, superior in every way to the American tanks with speed, firepower, and armor. That didn't stop our boys in the war from serving, but many met their end in that duty. Unfortunately our air power, which is supposed to run cover, wasn't much of a match for German air power either early in the war effort.
I told my cousin, when he mentioned that at the reunion, that he needed to see the movie "Fury." "It won't change your opinion of your father," I said "But it will change your perspective in a way." It's said Jimmy uttered nothing about the war when he returned, and he went on to marry my dad's sister (my godmother still living), have three children who all went into a medical field, and work as in management at Hormel. He lived a "normal" life. In truth, Jimmy was the glue of the group when it came together and could make everyone laugh as he talked and joked. I still get chills just thinking of what he saw, felt, and lived during his time in battle, and how that changed him as a man.
My dad, and most of my other uncles, served at that time. They all went in with assumed risks. My dad talked freely of his experience in the Pacific. I never really had the chance to talk to the others with the barrier of age and distance. I don't know what I'd ask if I had the chance or if I would just stay silent.
It took me to a simple verse in John 15: "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (v 13). I suppose I'd thank Jimmy if I had the chance. Perhaps we should, at all times, take that opportunity to thank someone for sacrificing of themselves in time, and maybe even thank their families for what they gave up, and potentially lost.
Hope Men's Ministry