Reaching out to his brother

As each of you know from experience, my skill at writing is increasingly limited.  That is why I have asked for Sam Veneable’s permission to complete the story I started yesterday.  At least I will let Sam complete it in part.  Perhaps I can fill in some details in the days to come.

Sam Veneable is a columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel in Knoxville, TN.  The following article was printed in the paper yesterday.  Read and enjoy and then I will use my blog from Thursday and Friday to fill in more blanks.

This Veterans Day will be like none other for Luke Henley.
After 63 years, he has finally connected, albeit indirectly, with one of his two brothers who were killed during World War II.
“I was shaking like a leaf as I walked up to that door,” Henley told me. “When he opened it, we hugged, and I cried like a baby.”
Before we go any further, permit me to set the stage:
Henley, 81, is the retired owner of a Knoxville roofing business. He is descended from Col. David Henley, who fought with George Washington in the Revolutionary War and for whom Henley Street and the Henley Bridge are named.
Luke was too young for military service during World War II. But his family sacrificed dearly nonetheless. He lost older brothers Charlie and Cecil, then 24 and 22, respectively.
Charlie, a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, was killed Feb. 2, 1945, when his B-24 crashed in the mountains between India and China. The wreckage was never found, his body never recovered.
Cecil, navigator aboard a Navy patrol bomber, perished the following May 10. His four-engine aircraft had completed a mission near the Japanese coastline and was returning to base.
“They’d been flying for 14 hours,” said Henley. “When they radioed in, they learned the base was under kamikaze attack. They were ordered to fly in another direction until the attack was over.”
It was the worst possible no-win situation. The plane was already low on fuel. At 3 a.m., in high seas and only 10 miles from base, it plowed into the ocean and disintegrated. Of the 11-man crew, only three survived.
“They found Cecil’s body the next day,” he said. “It was returned to Knoxville, and he was buried at Lynnhurst Cemetery.”
In the decades that followed, Henley often thought of his two brothers and wondered if anybody knew anything about them. He checked leads as they became available, but the trails always dead-ended.
Then this summer, Henley was visiting his former pastor in Florida. A neighbor dropped by. Casual conversation eventually drifted back to World War II.
“When I mentioned the PBY (Cecil’s airplane), the guy said, ‘Why, that’s the kind of aircraft I flew!’ He hooked me up with a PBY veterans group, and I wrote an item for their newsletter, telling them I was looking for a needle in a haystack.”
And wouldn’t you know it: The needle got found.
On Aug. 9, Henley received a telephone call. It was from 87-year-old Bob Lee, a retired television producer from Long Island, N.Y.
Lee had been Cecil’s roommate on their tender ship. Not only did he remember Henley’s brother, he had written about him in his own autobiography, “My Wings at Sunset.”
Late last month, Henley and his nephew, Ryan Whitley, drove to New York to meet Bob Lee. They stayed at his house two days and two nights.
Said Henley: “Bob and my brother had only roomed together 21 days before Cecil was killed, but they had become good friends.
“They were both very religious. They went to a special service and had communion the day before Cecil was killed.
“It was a very emotional time for me,” he added. “I felt like I had found my brother.”

Thank you, Sam for permitting me to reprint your fine article.  To read more of what Sam writes visit http://www.knoxnews.com


4 Responses to “Reaching out to his brother”

  1. 1 Lee
    November 12, 2008 at 8:48 am

    What a blessing! This is yet another testimony of Romans 8:28! There is no such thing as coincidence! God births beauty from ashes, joy from suffering and life from death, giving meaning even to the most seemingly meaningless or tragic events! Soli Deo Gloria!

  2. November 12, 2008 at 11:40 am

    I echo Lee’s sentiment. How precious for those gentlemen and family members. God is good…all the time. To God Alone be the Glory

  3. 3 Searching
    November 12, 2008 at 11:48 am

    What a grand story and even grander experience for you Ryan!
    Praise God from whom ALL things flow!
    Soli Deo Gloria!!

  4. November 12, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Wow. Great story about the love of Christ.
    Thanks for Sharing Ryan. Peace be with you.

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