A trip that started 63 years ago

wwii_soldiersThis Veterans Day I want to recount a trip I took recently to Baldwin, New York.  What makes this trip special is that it originated 63 years ago.  For those of you who are wondering how I could take such a journey in that I am only 46 years old, I encourage you to read on.

Four of my mother’s six brothers served our nation in World War II.  Two of those uncles paid the ultimate price, by giving their life for our nation.  Both men were pilots. Both men died while flying their airplanes.
The oldest uncle, Charlie Henley was killed when his plane went missing on February 7, 1945.  The military reported his cargo flight crashed somewhere over “the Hump”, a supply flight path through the Himalayas.

Neither the plane nor the crew was ever found.

The other uncle, Cecil Henley died 93 days later on May 10, 1945, when his Navy PBY plane made an emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean near Okinawa.  We have more details about Cecil’s death.

Upon returning from a recognizance’s flight over China, Cecil’s flight deck was under Kamikaze attack.  The landing area was smoked in, and landing was prohibited.  The crew was ordered to remain in the air under the attack ended.  With fuel running dangerously low, the men attempted an emergency landing in the ocean.  The original touchdown was successful.  However, large waves obliterated the plane on the second landing.

The flight captain reported three of the eight crew members survived.  Uncle Cecil’s body was found a few days later when it washed ashore an island near Okinawa.

On days like today I have Charlie and Cecil on my mind.  Charlie was only 23 and Cecil was 22 when they died.  Even though I did not know these men personally, I learned much about them from their brothers and my mother.

Recounting this story also causes me to think about my dear grandmother who lost two boys in less than four months.  The grief was so great the family doctor did not think she would survive.  My grandmother was a woman of great faith, however, and she lived several more decades with the hope of knowing she would be reunited with her boys in heaven.

That was 63 years ago. Tomorrow we catch up the story 63 years later.

The details are rather extensive, yet each part is important.  That is why I will continue the story in tomorrow’s blog.  For those who are wondering if we will ever return to the humility theme, it is coming.  Let me work my way through this amazing story first.

This Veterans Day I thank the Lord for the men and women who serve our nation.  Moreover, I thank God for those who gave their life so I can live mine in freedom.


4 Responses to “A trip that started 63 years ago”

  1. 1 Searching
    November 11, 2008 at 9:01 am

    Amen Ryan. I am part of a family of military volunteers. I have nephews, brothers, my father, cousins, uncles and many more who served for our freedom. I am remembering them today and giving gratitude to God for their sacrifice on my behalf. I look forward to the rest of the story! Blessings!

  2. 2 Lee
    November 11, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Thank you for your personal reflection that grants appropriate perspective to those being honored today. I’m grateful. I too look forward to the rest of the story. I love you, brother.

  3. 3 Ken Pittman
    November 11, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Why do you want to leave a brother hanging like that? It looks like I am going to have to call Ron Holmes (that is Mr. Holmes tp you)!

  4. November 11, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Ken, welcome to J1M! My son tells me it was a real treat to meet your family. Keep reading, and please continue to comment. Blessings.

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