Whose sacrifice mirrors God for you?

Remembering Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan

English: The March of Death. Along the March w...

English: The March of Death. Along the March which these prisoners were photographed, they have their hands tied behind their backs. The March of Death was about May 1942, from Bataan to Cabanatuan, the prison camp. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who mirrored God for you?

WWII veteran, Colonel Ben Skardon wants us to remember two names: Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan. They mirrored God for him by saving his life, over and over again.

Before I tell you more, Ben’s honoring of his two friends who died in WWII (as fellow POW’s of the Japanese) reminds me of a lesson which brought me faith.  In the exercise we were asked to list the one to two nicest things any other person ever did for us.

Once you write this down,  you cross out the names of those you are honoring, and replace each name with the word God. So Ben Skardon could say Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan saved his life while a POW, and he could say that God saved his life when he was a POW. But Leitner and Morgan themselves, did not survive.

I love this exercise, because somehow it works for many people who feel they have lost their faith or never had a sense of faith.

Ben Skardon, a son of an Episcopalian minister, seems to never have lost his faith, and perhaps his pastor-father’s teachings,  his two friends’ faithfulness, and crediting God,  had a lot to do with that.

After surviving the Bataan Death March, which started April 10 1942. Prisoners were forced to march 85 miles in six days, and were brutalized and killed along the way for sport. Be-headings, driving trucks over men, bayoneting men, beatings, all marked the reign of terror during the ordeal.

Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan were the men who kept Ben alive during the starvation and brutality which followed the Death March. In Japanese POW camps, Henry and Otis cared for him when he was ill, lifting him when he was weak, caring for him, when racked with malaria fever,doing all this as if he were a child. Many a soldier has been like a loving friend or Dad to fellow fighter in need. They helped him trade his last possession (his Clemson University college  ring) for food that saved his life. Just connecting with Henry and Otis in the camp was a miracle. They were all alumni of Clemson, but had not fought together, until they fought to stay alive in the POW camps.

At his “lowest point,” Skardon had Beriberi, malaria, diarrhea and his eyes were sealed shut with discharge from an eye infection. He could barely swallow. Leitner and Morgan spoon fed him, cleansed his eyes, carried him to an open latrine and bathed him before he was returned to their shack in the prison camp.

In the ongoing brutality and starvation which followed Ben survived, and both Henry and Otis died from their ordeal. In 1944 when Ben was transported in one of the Japanese “Hell Ships” to a Japanese labor camp, Otis Morgan was killed on a ships which allies bombed. This occurred because the Japanese did not keep any portion of the Geneva convention, so never marked either their POW camps or their ships as holding prisoners (only ¼ approximately, survived Hell Ships transports). Henry Leitner died in one of the POW camps in 1945.*

So, more tomorrow about Ben Skardon.

Here is one of my answers for who mirrored God for me. One of the nicest things anyone ever did for me was arrange a memorial service for my just-deceased grandfather-Pake in 1980. Pake died in The Netherlands, and I lived in California and could not attend his funeral. Episcopalian Priest Vern Suter and many friends were God for me when they held  a memorial for Pake-Gerrit de Vries, and my tender memories of him.

*In 1945 civilian and military deaths in POW and concentration camps in South East Asia increased exponentially. The war’s end in August 1945, saved many who barely clung to life.


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