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Living A Life of Patriotism

World War II veteran, Bill, spends much of his time in his workshop, carving intricate works of art with the tiny blade of a scroll saw.  Many of his creations are expressions of his faith in Jesus Christ.  

Bill says, “Those pictures right there, that is one of the biggest door-openers….I've had people come to know the Lord just, it starts them thinking.  It starts them wanting something.”  

Still others are symbols of his patriotism and service with the U.S. Navy during World War II.  

Bill adds, “Patriotism is the American way.  I mean, we just grew up with it.”

Bill joined the Navy in the summer of 1940.  He and a buddy were near Savannah, Georgia, cutting down trees to for his dad to use as pulp wood.

Bill remembers, “But unfortunately there was a telephone line going through, there was about 50 wires on that sucker.  Those trees fell right across it.  I think I had all the communication cut between Savannah and Atlanta.  And Sid looked at me, and looked at the wires, he said, ‘What are you going to do?’  I said, ‘I don't know about you, but I’m going to join the Navy. Cause I'd rather face anybody than my dad right now.’ So I put my saw down.  And I went down and joined the Navy.”  
 
After basic training, Bill was assigned as a gunner’s mate on the battleship USS New Mexico, based in Hawaii.  From his first night on, he kept his lifelong ritual of kneeling by his bed to pray.    

Bill says, “And I remember hearing this voice over there, ‘What's wrong with him?’  And I heard some other guy, say, ‘Shut up. The man is praying.’ I found out that there was people that believed in prayer there, some didn't believe in it.”
 
Bill believes those prayers kept him alive.  In May 1941, the New Mexico was reassigned to the north Atlantic – seven months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Bill says, “I figure that for some reason that God didn't want us at Pearl Harbor.  Cause if we'd had been at Pearl Harbor, we'd have been on the bottom.  Only after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor did I really get angry.  I was ready to go take them on.”

The ship was recalled to the Pacific but on the way had to stop in Norfolk, Virginia for repairs.  While on shore leave, Bill met Helen Miller.

Bill says, “All together I knew Helen for about 28 days.  So when we got over on the west side, I had already decided I wanted to marry her.  In fact I told my buddy that night, I said, ‘I'm going to marry that girl.’  I called her and she agreed to marry me, then I went on out to the Pacific.”

But duty called, and they had to wait until September 25, 1943 – two years later – to marry, when Bill was able to take leave.  All those years, Helen waited and prayed as Bill manned anti-aircraft guns defending the New Mexico against Japanese dive bombers and kamikaze attacks.  He fought at Guam, Saipan, Okinawa and others.  

Bill remembers, “You read your Bible, you wrote letters that weren't going to be mailed, and I think everybody was living within themselves.  So I can remember sitting by myself just wondering how’s it going to feel like to die.”

Bill saw many friends and brave men fall.

Bill says, “I loved them like brothers.  They were your family.  The first Japanese planes that ever flew over us were dive bombers, but they missed us.  And I remember this guy, Kenneth Jackson, he was standing there and after they missed us he was, ‘Come around again, try it one more time.  One more time!’  He wanted them to come over.  Course, I think I wanted them to go away.  But Kenneth is not living now.  He was one of those guys that didn't make it.”   

Bill is thankful to God that he was one of those who did.  

Bill says, “I could have never gone through the war without the Lord.  I couldn’t make it through this life.  I can look back to so many things actually that if God hadn't been there, I wouldn't be here.  I really feel that through the war I was one step ahead of disaster because Jesus was looking out for me.”  

After the war ended in 1945, he was discharged with the rank of chief gunner’s mate and went home to be with Helen.  The couple settled in Norfolk, where the raised two children.  73 years later, they’re still happily married.  Nowadays, he shares his faith through woodworking.  He gives many of the pieces away, especially his favorite – a carving of Jesus.

Bill says, “I just feel led to give a picture to somebody.  Somebody touches my heart and I take them a picture.  I don't do nothing, the Lord does it.  When I'm cutting a picture I pray about it.  About people that are going to see that picture that they'll get the same blessing from receiving it that I do in giving it.  And that they'll learn to know him as their Savior.”

Bill fought alongside men who died for the cause of freedom.  He is grateful that in America he can freely share his faith with others.  

Bill says, “The American flag didn't just happen.  We keep that flag flying.  It’s something God gave us.  We were made free because God wanted us free and because it stands for God, and as long as we uphold God, that flag will fly.”

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