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Letters of Faith in Times of War

Every once in a while you pick up a book that transforms your attitude and perspective on a subject. Grace Under Fire: Letters of Faith in Times of War did that for me. I’ve never considered myself to be overly patriotic. Now that does not mean that I do not love my country and am ungrateful for those who have fought to give me the freedoms I enjoy every day. On the contrary, I do…I just don’t get too emotional about it nor do I traditionally make a big deal out of holidays like Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day.

That is going to change and largely due to this book that I stumbled upon while visiting the library with my daughter. Grace Under Fire is a unique collection of letters written during the major wars in US history. There are letters representing the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the first few years after September, 11th of the War On Terrorism.

What is unique about these letters is that in them the writers all addressed the different thoughts and feelings one gets when they are faced with extreme situations and death on a daily basis. This gives us not only a glimpse into the world of hardships each generation of soldier faced but we also get to see how the war affected their family at home.

Many of the letters express regret or apprehension toward taking the life of another man even if they are the enemy. Others are wonderfully written expressions of love and strengthened devotion in the face of extreme temptation to stray from a spouse. To me, the most touching were letters from Chaplains or nurses who wrote to family back home on behalf of a dead soldier they had come into contact. They contained words of comfort and assurance that their son died courageously and that his life was not lost in vain.

As is often the case in times of war, many questioned the existence of God due to the atrocities they witnessed. I loved the conclusion they came to:

“I don’t know whether God goes forth with armies but I do know that His is in lots of our men or they would not do what they do.”
“He is in the Operating Room guiding the hands of the surgeons. He is in the will of the sergeants helping organize a blood drive as only they can. He is in the hearts of the soldiers who immediately rolled up their sleeves to give what they had to save a dying brother whom they don’t even know.”

They chose to look at the goodness of God when it would have been so easy to just blame all the bad things on Him as so many do today. We could learn a lot from these men and woman.

This book has drastically changed my passion for and interest in the lives of our service men and women that defend us each and every day. They live unique and thankless lives that few of us will ever understand. I found myself getting very emotional as I learned about the fears they faced and the friends they lost. I think everyone who has even the slightest interest in biographies or history needs to pick-up this book.

If you have war letters that you think others could benefit from or you are not sure what to do with them, please contact The Legacy Project. It is an organization that collects these letters to keep this amazing part of our history from being lost. Grace Under Fire is just one of the books that has been made from this compilation of letters.

“And so I bid you adieu. Christians never say goodbye. Sooner or later we all meet again.” – Corporal William Kiessel November 13, 1943 written while waiting for a pending invasion.

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