“Patriotism is the religion of the soil.”
—Stephen Mather, American conservationist,
Quoted in Ken Burns’ documentary on the National Parks
I had not intended to make up a special post for the Fourth of July until I attended the Independence Day service at our local Methodist church this past Sunday, July 1.
That service reminded me of several posts I have published in the past and brought back memories of other related patriotic themes, all of which inspired me to collect them in this post.
Remembrance of Family
Members on the Front Lines
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
—Thomas Paine, American patriot
First I was reminded of three previous posts about members of our families who served our country in the military during time of war.
I have already published posts about Mari’s father who served in the U.S. Army in the South Pacific during World War II. To read that tribute to him titled “The Passing of a Real Man,” click on the title.
I have also published two posts about our son Keiron who has served three overseas deployments with the United States Army.
In addition, I had an uncle, Frank Murray Barrett, my mother’s brother, and a cousin, Troy Gibson, my father’s nephew, who served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific in WWII. Among my mother’s old photos which she kept in a shirt box are two letters she received during WWII. One was from Murray and the other was from Troy. I have read them often and am always struck by how both men tried to sound positive in the midst of very dangerous events in which the outcome of the war was in no way yet assured.
For instance, in Troy’s letter he wrote about an attack on his ship by Japanese Kamikaze (suicide) pilots. Although obviously disturbed by the massive losses in ships and personnel, Troy was able to note that on his ship “only five sailors” were lost in that latest attack.
To read about a little book on battleships sent to me by Troy during WWII, visit my earlier post titled “My Favorite Childhood Books/The Truth about Santa Claus.”
The Hardships of
Women on the Home Front
“Be prepared to take care of the home front as we take care of the war front.”
—Lt. Col Jackie Ritter of the Oklahoma National Guard
to the families of whose being deployed
(To read a recent article from the Tulsa World about the latest deployment of Oklahoma soldiers and the effects on those left behind, click here.)
At the end of Keiron’s Memorial Day speech linked above, a woman asked if she could address the crowd. She explained that although it was entirely proper to recognize and honor members of the military who actually fought in our country’s wars on the front lines, similar acknowledgment and praise should go to those on the home front who supported their loved ones far away in combat.
She briefly recounted the hardships endured by her mother and others like her while her father was on active duty overseas during WWII.
In preparing this post I was reminded of that woman’s point and of the sacrifices made by Mari’s mother while Mari’s father was gone to war. I have already told several times in previous posts that Grover Williams and Mary Elizabeth “Bessie” Conrad, were married a week before Pearl Harbor and that Grover was drafted into the army where he served for three years before he saw Bessie again and his new daughter Marion who was born in his absence.
While Grover was gone, Bessie moved back to rural Florence, Arkansas, a few miles up the road from Selma, my birthplace, to stay with her parents until her husband returned.
During that time, Marion was born on September 6, 1942, in St. Mary’s hospital in Dermott, Arkansas, some thirty miles from Florence. Since Bessie had no car she had to return to McGehee to stay with her sister Grace Ward who transported her to Dermott, ten miles away, when the time for the “new arrival” came.
Since she had no means of transportation on the farm, Bessie had to ride a horse from her parents’ place to Florence—about ten miles—to get the mail. During this time there was little correspondence from Grover to Bessie, so she really never knew where he was. In one of her rare letters to him she told him that she and Mari had been out looking for guinea eggs. Later, when Grover had been transferred from Hawaii to Australia and then to New Guinea, to prevent his letter from being censored by the army, he simply told Bessie that he “might be sitting on one of those nests.” She then knew where he was for at least a while until he was again transferred, this time to the Philippines.
In regard to the lack of news from Grover, on one occasion someone in McGehee saw a roster of local servicemen who had been killed in the war. One of them was named Williams, so the news was passed around and eventually reached Bessie that Grover was dead. She had to endure that erroneous report until she could somehow check it out and learn that it was false. That was not an easy task due to the isolation of her parents’ farm and their lack of transportation and communication.
Because her two unmarried brothers had also gone to war, it was Bessie’s job to help her father with the farm work, which was quite arduous, especially while Bessie was pregnant with Mari and later while tending to a newborn baby.
Remember, this was in the days before modern conveniences such as electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing had reached rural Arkansas. (See my earlier posts titled “The Way We Were” and “Life Is Reg’lar/My Mother’s Bible.”)
Thus there were no “creature comforts” such as air-conditioning, telephones, televisions, etc. It is difficult for us today to imagine how hard it was for women like Bessie to have to toil day after day, week after week, and month after month for years with little or no information about what was happening to their sweethearts, husbands, and family members.
For more stories about the hardships faced by women on the home front during WWII, Mari recommends a book titled Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II by Emily Yellin. It can be reviewed and purchased on Amazon.com.
The Independence Day Service at the
Sapulpa United Methodist Church
Leader: We lift our hearts, O God, in gratitude for the gift of our country and land.
People: We rejoice with those who share in the dream of freedom and liberty for all.
Leader: With flags, prayers, and songs of praise we celebrate the gifts we have received.
People: Be with us, O God, as we celebrate the freedom that has come from You.
—Call to Worship
Sapulpa First United Methodist Church
July 1, 2012
That patriotic worship service at the First United Methodist Church of Sapulpa that inspired me to make up this post began with a musical prelude by Jim Gregory, the church’s pianist and organist.
It was a stirring rendition of “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” which is also known as the Navy Hymn and remembered for a final line, a prayer “for those in peril on the sea.” To hear this hymn with the words on screen, click here. For another version of the hymn sung by a choir with scenes of stained-glass church windows and British naval vessels, click here.
After the call to worship and a hymn of praise “God of the Ages,” the prayer of confession and praise was repeated by the entire congregation:
“God of liberty, we acknowledge Your reign. For the freedom of our land, for the rights we possess, for the security of our laws, we praise You and thank You. Give guidance to our leaders; watch over those who serve. Raise up the poor, and exalt the humble. Make our nation prosperous in virtue, and strong in faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Following that prayer and the traditional exchange of peace came the song of praise: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” To view a video of this song being sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, click here.
After the scripture lesson, the morning message about the blood of Jesus, and prayers for the joys and concerns of the congregation, there came the offertory. It was accompanied by Jim Gregory playing a rousing old-fashioned, toe-clapping, hand-clapping medley of gospel songs about blood such as “Are You Washed in the Blood,” “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus” and “There Is Power in the Blood.” (To read more about old-time gospel hymns in my Selma childhood, see my earlier post titled “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”)
Next came the sharing in Holy Communion and the hymn of commitment, “America the Beautiful.” To hear this song performed by Ray Charles with photos of the United States and other stirring scenes of people and places, click here. (Note: If you read and watch only one thing in this post, make it this one!)
After the benediction, Jim closed the service with the postlude, “God Bless America.” To hear this traditional favorite with additional patriotic scenes and sung by Kate Smith who originally introduced it and whose theme song it became, click here. (To view a previous post on love of one’s native land titled “Some Southern Stuff: Love of the Land,” click here.)
If you will click on these links and watch the videos on them, I believe you will understand why I was inspired to create this post as my salute to the Fourth of July and those who made it possible.
Now I would like to close this patriotic post with some select prayers for this occasion from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.
Patriotic Prayers from the Episcopal
Book of Common Prayer
Prayer for Independence Day, p. 190:
“Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn; Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Prayer for the Nation, p. 258:
“Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and peace: Grant to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Prayer for Peace, 815:
“Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness; no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.”
Prayer for Our Country in Times of Conflict, p. 824:
“O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Prayer for Those in the Armed Forces of Our Country, 823:
“Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and give them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”