Today is December 7. The day Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. The day which drove our nation into World War II. But for my family, the day signifies so much more.
The United States drafted my dad into the army in 1941. Thus began a nearly four year separation between Delmer, and his pretty, young girlfriend, Lanora. With a twinkle in her eye, she told him she needed something to keep the other boys away while he was gone. He placed a diamond ring on her finger, and she promised to wait for her beloved.
My father stood only 5’9”, but his broad shoulders grew muscular as he trained for war. He made friends easily with his wit and mischievousness, but sometimes his outspoken personality got him in trouble with his superiors. When the 31st Infantry Division moved to New Guinea, they practiced for the invasion of Morotai Island in September 1944. The reality of facing the enemy-controlled jungle overwhelmed my brave, but tender-hearted father.
One day as the troops rested on the beach of Maffin Bay, Dad suddenly snapped. Believing ants covered his body, he began to strip and run straight toward the jungle. One of his smaller comrades raced after him, tackled him and wrestled him to the ground. Dad outweighed him by 30 pounds, but he held on like a bulldog until others could reach them. Together, they brought my dad back to safety, saving his life from potential death by the enemy.
At the hospital stateside, Dad recovered fully from both the emotional trauma of the war, and the malaria he contracted in the jungle. Because of a man who chose to risk his life for someone else, Delmer came home to Lanora. Together they made a home and raised a family.
Forty-four years later, Dad joined his division for a reunion in Florida. In the days prior to the reunion, he learned the full story of his rescue for the first time. His former Sergeant “E” hoped to reunite the two men at the gathering, but didn’t know where to find the hero. With the help of the local newspaper, they found Eddie Ayala, and invited him to the reunion. There, Dad thanked him personally for rescuing his life.
But that’s not the end of the story.
At the reunion, Dad presented Eddie with a Gideon Bible, and told him of God’s great love for him. As a result, Eddie understood the truth of Jesus, who died to save both Delmer and Eddie. With Dad’s help, God rescued Eddie from the enemy lines that day.
On December 7, 1994, at age 75, my daddy passed from this world to the next. He stood before the God who saved his life twice – once when He sent Eddie, and once when He sent Jesus.