In September, a group of friends and I took a trip to New Orleans with a side trip to Gulfport. We did all of the usual touristy things… beignets at Cafe Dumont, a carriage ride around the French Quarter, a tour of a cemetery, and a paddle boat dinner cruise on the Mississippi. We also got to visit the Battlefield of New Orleans, a ‘fish camp’ in the bayous, and witnessed firsthand the damage Hurricane Katrina inflicted on the Gulf Coast.
I had always heard about how bad the humidity is in the south and it didn’t disappoint me! Sometimes it felt like the air was so heavy with moisture that I was swimming. And the famous Southern hospitality is alive and well…everyday conversation is speckled with honey, sweetie, sugar, and darlin’; along with the usual southern drawl that makes every word sound musical.
One place I visited that folks don’t normally associate with New Orleans is the National World War II Museum. If you are ever in New Orleans, please don’t miss the opportunity to visit this incredible venue. And plan on staying the entire day…it is really spectacular. When you first arrive, they give you a dog tag that you use at kiosks throughout the museum. This dog tag is attached to a soldier’s journey during WWII. I was assigned a soldier who was in the Pacific Theatre and was captured and forced to march 65 miles in what is now known as the Bataan Death March. He later died in a prison camp just months before the war ended. But his story wasn’t unusual. Over 41% of Americans in Japanese POW camps died. Interestingly, only 1.1% died in a German POW camps.
It was a sobering experience and I left with a better understanding of what our soldiers endured and of the brutality of the German and Japanese armies. Approximately 70,000,000 people died in WWII, about 5% of the world’s population. Just in the Pacific, 22,000,000 civilians were killed or died from starvation, many from rural villages in China. I have a hard time fathoming that kind of devastation, and I pray we will never experience that type of brutality again.
But out of this devastation, came reconciliation. The allies didn’t leave Germany and Japan in ruins with people starving in the streets. They stepped in and helped them rebuild. Without the allies help, it is likely that Germany wouldn’t be a leading nation in the European Union and Japan wouldn’t be one of the world’s major economic powers.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
One of the lessons WWII taught me is that through God’s love and compassion, conflict can be replaced by reconciliation and unity. Through God, we can overcome the darkness and emerge stronger. If we can do that after such a devastating war, surely we can come together after a contentious election!
To all veterans, thank you for your service! Thank you for fighting when it was necessary and for staying to help rebuild countries. Through your sacrifice, I have the freedom to speak my mind, to worship my God, and to vote.