Meeting a WWII Veteran

My daughter Bethany played in a piano recital at a nursing home last Friday afternoon. After the presentation I met an amazing man. His name was Jim Cole. Mr. Cole had blue ball cap on with big yellow letters: “I am a WWII Veteran.” The first thing he said to me was, “We should have sung ‘God Bless America.’” I introduced my boys to him and explained that they had been studying, reading, and writing about war. He told us that he was in WWII for a long time as an airplane pilot. He flew “the biggest bombers we had.” His summary of the war for the boys: “Germany and Japan were trying take over the world. And they almost did. About the only countries left were America and England. We had to stop them.”

By this time a dozen kids and adults had gathered around to listen to Mr. Cole. He was old and bent, but his clear voice and build revealed that he had once been a very strong man. “The Germans and Japanese had better planes than anyone at the beginning of the war. Faster and better maneuverability.” He stressed the importance of learning and being ready. “If someone tells you to go bomb a certain country, you can’t do it unless you know where it is on the map! When I was your age, I knew where the countries were on a map.” He leaned forward and shook his finger at the boys. “Learn! Learn! Don’t be a dummy! If we have to go to war again, it will be you boys who have to fight. Learn and be ready! You’ve got to think and use your brain. Use your head for more than a hat rack.”

While we were talking Anna and Meredith Riggins and Chloe and Emma Curtis prepared to sing “God Bless America.” They sang in harmony and it was beautiful! By this time there was no one left in the room but Mr. Cole and some of us who came for the recital. As they started to sing, his shaky, bruised hands reached for the walker sitting in front of him. He slowly pulled himself to his feet. He sang with them. His face was beaming. It may not be possible for these young ladies who sang to know what an amazing Christmas present that song was to Mr. Cole.

I was inspired by Mr. Cole’s strength, his sense of honor, his sense of responsibility, his desire to be ready, and his pride for our country.

Augustine's Confessions

We are reading Augustine's Confessions in the Medieval History class I am teaching high school homeschoolers. According to the Omnibus II textbook, Aurelius Augustine (354-430) was “one of the greatest minds of the ancient and medieval worlds (in a way he ends one world and begins the other ).” In the Middle Ages, “other than the Bible, the two [books] that were probably most read and influential were Augustine’s City of God and Confessions.” “Confessions is the story of Augustine’s journey from his rough and rowdy youth to his conversion.” I was immediately gripped by the quality of writing and depth of understanding in Confessions. It is a worthy read. I will be sharing a number of quotes as I read it.

The Arrest of Polycarp

Here is an amazing account of what happened when Polycarp was arrested before his martyrdom. This is from Eusebius' Church History.

"Soon the pursuers arrived and arrested two of the servants there, one of whom, under torture, showed them to Polycarp's quarters. It was night, and they found him lying in an upper bedroom. He could have moved to another house, but he had refused, saying, 'God's will be done.' When he heard that they had come, he went down and talked with them in such a cheerful, serene manner that they were astounded in view of his old age and confident air and wondered why there was such anxiety to arrest an old man of such character. He ordered that a table be set for them and invited them to dine with gusto, asking only for a single hour to pray undistrubed. This granted, he stood up and prayed, filled with the grace of the Lord, to the astonishment of those present, many of whom grew distressed that so dignified and godlike a man was going to his death."

“Whoever controls the image and information of the past determines what and how future generations will think; whoever controls the information and images of the present determines how those same people will view the past.”~ George Orwell, 1984 (1949)