Just a couple of feet away.
That’s all that separated my grandfather from instant eternity as he fought in the trenches of France during World War I.
Starting in 1914 and lasting 4 years up to 1918, ” The Great War” was an unbelievably brutal conflict in which Germany fought Britain, The United States and other Allied nations along a long trench that split the geography of France. This “trench warfare” really had no complete victory as both sides pummeled the other with mortar shells, grenades, cannons, mustard gas and other chemical explosives, and various kinds of guns, ultimately amounting to a stalemate war of attrition.
War technology advanced 20 years ahead within that four-year span. By 1918 tanks, planes, armor, guns, and modern battle strategy had surpassed the old ways of direct combat, trenches, armies fighting row upon row et.
But sadly for my grandfather, he was drafted at age 18 and sent to live, fight and hopefully survive the gruesome reality of the trench.
A great amount of fatalities and casualties that occurred in the trenches involved exploding shells. Sometimes these shells would explode a few feet above the heads of soldiers, blowing their heads apart like watermelon. New steal helmets helped in some circumstances, but anyone who spent any amount of time fighting in those trenches saw plenty of awful and unsightly deaths.
As my grandfather was walking in the trench one day, some shells began to hit very close to where he was. And then suddenly, he heard a shell coming right for him! He tried to run away, but it was too close to him – it blew him sideways immediately and his fellow soldiers figured he was dead.
Thankfully, the shell did not hit him directly, but hit just a matter of feet on the floor of the trench. Instead of blowing his head off, it just blew hundreds of pieces of shrapnel into his lower leg.
He was taken out of the trench and to the medical area immediately. The doctors did everything they could to save his leg. But they were unsure – time would tell depending on healing and infection. Thankfully the leg was intact and he was able to hobble along.
Before long his leg had healed up and he was able to have full use of both legs throughout his life. The only minor nuisance he had to deal with the rest of his life was chronic pain.
I recall as a youngster, grandpa Ray used to bandage up his leg every morning. But when we were present, he would first let us have a look at his leg. It was constantly swollen, red with many tiny dark speckles of metal and lumpy from the permanent scarring. Hundreds of tiny pieces of shrapnel from the Great War in France were a permanent reminder of what grandpa Ray endured as a teenager for his nation.
I tell you this story not so much from a patriotic standpoint today, but maybe even more from the aspect of divine providence. You and I are not alive today by accident. We are intentionally here for a reason. My grandfather made some unfathomably selfless decisions for the good of humanity.
The fact that I am alive today because my grandfather was a few feet away from annihilation – well, that gives me pause for contemplating my purpose and my destiny.
Life is precious. We all have the ability to make a difference in positive ways. Those who live to bring death and destruction to this planet, well all I can say is it is a total waste of their good fortune of even being allowed to live on this third rock from the Sun.
I am very proud of my grandfather and his willingness to give even his own life for the cause of worldwide freedom.
And I realize today that I must follow in his steps, and live for the betterment of others.
For I am only here on this planet by the difference of few feet.
Until next time,