These stories have a purpose. A purpose not immediately brought to light, but revealed in a completely unanticipated episode of grace. Steve McAlpin, in the course of his 27-year military career, demonstrated over and over his deep sense of heart and sacrifice through his service to his country, its Veterans and its many families. In recognition of these deep-seated senses, he was honored by having his experiences published in a (so far) two book series of military service stories, one called “Veteran’s Voices” published by the National Geographic Society. The other is “Portraits of Service” published by Patton Publishing.
In the course of our journey, Steve had made arrangements to meet with the photographer of his picture as published in series 2 – “Veteran’s Voices”. His name is Andrew Wakeford. Andrew, an Englishman, and his German wife Christa live in Saarbrucken, Germany. A fair-sized town about an hour and a half from the Village of Fremenil, France, where I wished to revisit, and write about. That story is entitled “Emelienne.”
That meeting tuned out to be a major influence on the contents and purposes of my stories. What happened, in that short and unanticipated (to me) meeting was unforeseen but powerful. Andrew had known Steve for several years and knew his amazing qualities. I was unaware of the depth of those qualities, until my encounter with Andrew and Christa.
Even that relationship factored in to the powerful influence of this meeting. England and Germany had inflicted severe pain and destruction upon each other during WWII. Their need for reconciliation was immense and a challenging process. Andrew and Christa were two persons of formerly opposing nationalities who had found a way to meet and reconcile that process. A symbolic example all by itself. An example of human triumph over forces that seek our separation and exile. A triumph that Andrew has dedicated a large part of his career in seeing that it is brought forward to the attention of the rest of the world through his photography and storytelling.
He had never met me, nor had any previous knowledge of my existence, until that day of our meeting – July 13, 2017. Steve had made the arrangement for our meeting at an earlier time and I paid little attention to it as my mind was focused on going back to Fremenil to relive my adventure of 1945. In fact, I was internally hoping for a short lunch meeting, and then getting down to the business at Fremenil.
As has happened so many times in my life, an unforeseen twist in plan comes up, and the whole scene changes. Andrew, with no knowledge of me other than I was a WWII Veteran, presented me with two most moving and precious documents in his possession. They changed my focus on our journey from one of fulfilling a bucket list to becoming a missionary. A missionary whose mission would be to devote my remaining efforts on this planet to reconciliation.
Such an Amazing Grace…