Sunday, May 24, 2015

Greater Love

John 15: 13 tells us that there is no greater love than the laying down of one's life for others. Of course, Christ was referring to Himself when He said this, but throughout history, many individuals have been willing to lay down their own life for the sake of another. A prime example of this is war, often when men and women have been called upon to defend their “religion, freedom, peace and families” (see Alma 46 in the Book of Mormon).

The Keillor and Smith families are replete with those willing to not only defend those freedoms, but who paid the “ultimate price” to do so. On this Memorial Day, I’d like to focus on a few who have something specific in common.

The first is Phil Justis, whose story was told in another post: His parents' headstone lists his name and dates, with the comment "Lies in France."

Another soldier in our family was John “Jackie” August Breder, of Egg Harbor City, New Jersey.

He served in the 96th “Deadeye” Division, participated in the invasion of Leyte Gulf, but died on 25 October 1944 in a Philippine Hospital of wounds received in battle. He is memorialized on a cenotaph in his family’s plot in the Egg Harbor City Cemetery and on the memorial wall of the Manila American Cemetery.

Many thanks to my friend Mark Maxwell for the photograph of Jackie Breder's marker in Egg Harbor City, NJ.

George Brandt, of Irvington, NJ, was in the Army Air Forces stationed in Italy. He was a crewmember on a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber that was flying a supply flight from Vincenzo Aerodrome into France on 19 Feb 1944, when the plane experienced engine problems and crashed into Lake Lesina, near Foggia, Italy with the loss of all hands.

George Brandt has a marker at the National Cemetery in Beverly, NJ, although I've found no record of his body being recovered. 

 Two Naval officers are also in this group. The first is Lt. (j.g.) Frederick Mueller, also of Egg Harbor City, NJ.

Thanks to the archives of Rutgers University for the high school graduation photograph of Lt. Mueller. 

He was stationed on the USS Franklin (CV-13) “Big Ben,” which was hit by a kamikaze plane on 19 Mar 1945. He was killed that day, along with over 700 other sailors. The story of the heroics of her crew, including two who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor that day, is worth reading:
Many thanks to my dear friend Sue VerHoef for the photograph of Lt. Mueller's name at Hawaii's "Punchbowl."

Finally, Lt. (j.g.) Jeremiah “Jerry” Philp, a Naval aviator aboard the USS Salamaua (CVE-96). He was killed attempting to make an emergency landing onboard when his wing tip clipped a gun emplacement and his plane went over the side. The surrender had been signed on the USS Missouri a mere five days earlier. We were able to acquire his service record that included recommendations from grade school teachers that attested to his fine character.

Jerry Phillp's yearbook from Wayne State University in Michigan

What do these five men have in common besides having died in WWII? Each of them, except for Jackie Breder, was the only child of his parents. Jackie was the only son, having three sisters.
Having been the mom of two sons in service with six deployments under her belt, I can’t even begin to imagine the sense of grief, pain and loss these parents felt. I don’t know the exact circumstances, but I feel that it’s telling that Lt. Mueller’s mother died the same year, and Sgt. Justis’ mother died two years after her son was killed.

How grateful we should be on this Memorial Day for the men and women and their parents, who have sacrificed so selflessly for this great nation. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow this blog does an excellent job of making me put things into perspective so that I see things as they really are. These men a true heros and have my upmost respect and admiration. Proud to call them family!