Friday, May 31, 2013

Thank You


Thank you for all of your smiles and stories. Thank you for your joyful spirit and genuineness. I have learned so much from you and your life. Most of all, thank you for your service. Without your patriotic dedication and willingness to fight for other’s freedom, we would not have the opportunities we have today. Thank you.

Nichole Russell

Hey Pop!
First, thank you for serving in the 8th Air Force during WWII, and for sharing your story with me! Also, thank you for showing me how important it is to love people and smile. Your presence brings a sense of joy that can’t be ignored, and I am grateful for the joy you have put in my life. I pray you continue to show people Jesus’ love and continue to enjoy his blessings.

Kirk Metzger

Thank you, John, for showing me what a lifetime of faithful service to Christ looks like. Even though you have lived an adventurous and honorable life, you remain humble and put the needs of others before your own. You have served your country courageously, you raised your family with dignity, and earned the respect of all those around you. The world is a better place because you’re in it, John, so thank you.
Arielle Pearson

I am so glad that you came on this trip. When I found out that I was picked to go on the trip I started praying that God would put me with the most amazing man. Within the first few hours of knowing you I knew God had answered my prayers. You taught me so much in the last twelve days about the war and your experience in it. You’ve also taught me what it looks like to be a true man of God. You were an amazing example of what it means to live life and live it to the fullest. You took each chapter of your life with all you had and you set goals then accomplished them. I love when you would talk about your wife and how after 67 years you still couldn’t go a day without telling your wife you miss her and love her. John, thank you so much for pouring so much wisdom into me these past two weeks. Know that I love you and will never forget you.

Duncan Tillack

Dear Walter,
You already know how thankful I am for you and for what you've done. So I just want to thank you for always being so kind, generous, and sweet to me on this trip. You have such a big heart! You made everyone feel special. So thank you, not just for what you did in the war, but for what you do daily to show the love of Christ.
I love you!

Ramsey-Michele Pruitt
Dearest Walter,

What a remarkable twelve days this has been! I truly feel blessed to have had the opportunity to share this experience with you. I came into this trip expecting to learn about war and patriotism, but you have taught me so much more. You have shown me how the human spirit can thrive even in the darkest of times. You have given me jokes and quips to keep me laughing for years to come. You have taught me so much about life and what it means to keep God at the center of all I do. I am forever changed because of you. Thank you for everything!


Matt Matney

I will always cherish the great memories and stories you've shared with us as we embarked on this great journey. Our interactions were truly special, and I'm so happy we were paired together. You're always in my heart!
Kristiana Nordstrom
Dear Don,
Thank you for the wonderful time we had together in England! I enjoyed hearing all of your stories about your service in World War II and am glad to know that I will get to share them with others throughout my life. You have made a significant impact on my life and I am grateful that we met. May you continue to trudge on in this life and share with others your experiences as they are truly exhilarating!
Your friend,
Rick Koretoff

I want to thank you for sharing stories of your life experiences with me. I will cherish the invaluable advice you have given me. The time we have spent together during this trip has been amazing and I will never forget it! You have impacted my life in countless ways and for this I want to express my sincerest gratitude.
Stephanie Clark
Words cannot express my thanks for the service you have done for me and the people in the United States. It was a privilege and honor to be with you on this trip. You kept everyone laughing, including me. Your outlook on Christianity is amazing. Your optimism and outlook on life is so uplifting. I loved hearing your stories and laughing at your jokes. You are an inspiration to me, Dale. I am so glad I was able to meet you and I hope you keep in touch with me. I hope to be able to come visit you! You will continue to be in my prayers.
Jesse Henderson
First of all, I want to thank you for serving for our country. You are delightful to be around, and you bring a smile to anyone's face! Thank you for spending the past 12 days with us. They were very full days, and I am so glad that Brandon and I got to spend them with you! You were so incredibly fun to be around, and brought much laughter to our group! :) Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We cannot thank you enough for the sacrifices you have made for our freedom. It was an absolute pleasure getting to know you, and an honor serving you! We will see you soon...
Lots of love,
Melissa Moore
Dear Tom,
Thank you so much for your service, first of all. I appreciate your passion for government and commitment to values in a time when it seems some are throwing those values out the window. Thank you so much for allowing me to get to know you and listen to your account of WWII. I will never forget this trip and the memories we made here.
Your friend,
Brandon Ashbee
Dear Mack,
I cannot fully express my appreciation of you coming on this trip! Your stories, experience, and firsthand knowledge of the sites and events of WWII brought them to life to me in a way that nothing else could have. I so enjoyed your sense of humor and ability to brighten up the room with a song or a laugh! All in all I want to say thank you for making this trip not only fun but truly life changing. And thank you for your service, not only in WWII but also to veterans since then.
Much love,
Laura Virnig
Thank you for teaching me as much with your actions as you did with your stories. You led by example and opened my eyes to the joy that can be found in a simple smile or laugh. Mack, you have taught me many things, all of which I aim to share with those around me so that they may never be forgotten.
Brock Schrag
Hi there Bill!
It was an honor to be partnered up with you on this trip. You have lived an incredible life of service and I’d like to thank you for letting Eddie and me learn from your vast array of knowledge. God bless you, dear friend.
With love,
Anna Zachary
Dear Bill,

Thank you for coming in this trip with us You made it fun for all of us, Especially Anna and me. Your sense of humor and free spirit always kept us on our toes. Thank you and God bless.

Eddie Sterling

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 10: To Know Christ

Where to start when given the honor to write about a man who so humbly has lived a truly remarkable life. It is the last full day in England and we are headed back to London where we will fly home tomorrow morning. We feel so blessed to be able to write this far into into the trip because Mr. John Haynes has impacted us more and more every day.

A couple days ago, we had the opportunity to sit down with John over a cup of coffee and just talk about his entire life. John was so gracious and transparent in sharing his experiences with us and answering our continuous stream of questions. After listening to John's story from the very beginning to current day, we asked John to give us his most valuable piece of life advice. Without hesitation, he looked at us and said: "The most valuable thing that you can do with your life is to know Christ and to raise your family to know Christ." This beautiful statement brought us to tears. John has been alive for 90 years. He served his country with valor in the Naval Armed Guard during WWII. He persevered through many obstacles to achieve his dream of becoming a Navy pilot. He worked his way into prestigious positions in the Federal Aviation Administration. He has lived all over the United States and all over the world. He has a beautiful wife of 67 years and four successful children.  He is loved and respected by every person he meets. All of this, yet he will still say at 90 years looking back on the rich and full life that he has lived, that knowing Christ is THE most important thing, because Christ is what bridges the gap between their generation and ours. God was with our veterans when they were fighting in the war, He is with us today as we travel back to the places where our men fought, and He will continue to lead our country in the future.

John Haynes has shown us what it means to live life and life it well. He has a disposition of wisdom and valor that is clear to everyone. When John talks, people listen, and they listen well. He has spoken so much biblical truth as well as truth that he has gathered from his own experiences.  One thing we noticed was that his life has been composed of several different seasons; some adventurous and exciting, some slow and still. but he taught us that every moment is important and plays a part in life's full story.

We both cannot explain how much we have grown to love and respect John Haynes. Our lives have been forever changed.

Arielle Pearson, junior
Duncan Tillack, sophomore

Day 9: "I have loved well and been loved well." - Don Ellwood

On Don Ellwood's eightly-fifth birthday, he reflected on his past memories and experiences, and depicted a life full of adventure and intrigue. Imagine being seventeen years old and steering a massive merchant ship into the throws of a hurricane. Or imagine that saving this merchant ship is not only vital to your own life but the lives of troops fighting in the war in desperate need of supplies. For Don Ellwood, this was not some made up scenario but his reality as a young Merchant Seaman. When he was just 16 years old, Don saw an ad in the newspaper for help needed as a Merchant Marine. Since he was too young to be in the military, Don decided signing up for the Merchant Marines was his only chance to be a part of the war and left his senior year of high school to take the call. He served on several ships carrying not only cargo, but prisoners of war and troops back and forth across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

During his service with the Merchant Marines, Don encountered incredible feats and challenges for his adolescent mind. His first voyage brought him to where we are visiting today: Liverpool, England. Here his first convoy hauled tanks, cigarettes, and other cargo for the soldiers on the front lines. His second mission, however, was more dangerous and serious in nature. Don said that he did not understand some of the secrecy on the ship, at the time, and was confused by the limited supplies they carried to Swansea, Whales. After unloading, they made a stop in Cherbourg, France, and Don suddenly realized their true mission--transporting five hundred German prisoners of war back to the states. Young Don was amazed that these prisoners were boys of twelve and thirteen years of age mixed with elderly men. During his voyage back, his ship encountered a massive hurricane that put Don's training to the test as he steered through the storm. Though many were terrified, Ellwood was exhilarated at the chance to play such a central role in this situation. Few men can say that they encountered such adventure at such a young age.

After several more missions with the Merchant Marines, Don enlisted in the Navy where he served his country for thirty-four more years. Now, after having lived eighty-five years, Don can look back on his life and be proud of what he has accomplished. "I have loved well and been loved well. I have raised my sons to be good fathers. I have everything I need. I am not afraid to die." These were some of the precious sentiments he shared with us after a meaningful eighty-fifth birthday on this Patriotic Tour. We have been so blessed to hear his stories and life lessons, and our lives will forever be changed by what this man has shared with us. Our hope is that, at the end of our lives, we can be like Don. We can look back at everything we have gone through and say, we have lived life well, we have everything we need, we can die knowing that we have made a difference.

Kristiana Nordstrom, sophomore
Rick Koretoff, senior

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 8: Make A Joyful Noise

Psalms 98:5-6 “Sing praises to the Lord…with trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!”

We arrived in Liverpool on the 24th of May and enjoyed some free time exploring the many aspects the town had to offer. After a dinner together there was time to experience the beautiful night lights and unusual architecture of the town. The following morning, the 25th May, we took a tour of the Liverpool Cathedral and all of its grandeur while enjoying music played from one of the largest pipe organs in the world. Following the tour we attended an afternoon service accented by a visiting boys’ choir.

On the night of the 25th we attended a charity concert commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic. This event was played by Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, Portsmouth accompanied by a local choir and soloist. The world class concert was rousing with a sense of patriotism and exuberance surrounding the commemoration.

Mack Paynter, 88, was a Gunners Mate Third Class (GMC3) aboard the merchant SS Benjamin Huntington. Mack was drafted at 16 while working on a farm in Ohio. Today’s theme of making a joyful noise applies especially to Mr. Paynter. Not only in his spare time does Mack enjoy making musical instruments and listening to bluegrass in particular. He has no hesitations about making a joyful noise and has a song for every occasion. More than once on the trip Mack has led the group in a spontaneous song and has consistently maintained a joyful demeanor.
All in all these past two days have been a good example of Mack Paynters’ life by honoring the Lord with song, and beauty coming out of the ashes, much as the beautiful town of Liverpool has risen from the ashes of WWII.

Laura Virnig, junior
Brock Schrag, sophomore

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day 7: The Man Who Has Done It All

Bill Ryan was born and raised as a Catholic in Boston, Massachusetts on December 3, 1924.  His father was often away, serving in the Navy, and his mother died of cancer when he was 12 years old.  It makes sense that when WWII began, Bill tried to fake his age and join the army at 16.  They found out he did not meet the 18 year age requirement and referred him to the Merchant Marines.  He joined on December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He served in the Merchant Marines from 1941-1943.  During those two years, Bill made three convoys to the North Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel.  He made 3 separate convoys to Russia throughout his 17 months with the Merchant Marines.  His role on the ship was in the engine room,  located 31 feet below sea level, and as a second loader for the deck guns.  Coming back to America, he was a 17 year old with an already incredible story.  But he did not stop there.

In March, 1943, Bill decided to join the army.  He became a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne.  Because of the horrendous losses suffered by the 1st Infantry Division in Italy he was attached for duty with this division.  He landed with  this division on Omaha Beach on D-Day.  Wounded he returned to England and once recovered reverted back to the Airborne in time to parachute into Holland on September 17, 1944 for "Operation Market Garden."  He later was assigned back to the 1st Infantry Division, where he served all total for 12 years.

During his service in the army, Bill quickly gained rank. He went from being a squad member to platoon leader at about 20 years of age.  He was younger than most of the other members, but the leadership responsibilities were given to him.  Bill fought through the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 with the 1st infantry.  In addition, his unit liberated the last concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.  In addition to WWII, Bill served  in the Korean War, and then served in Dominican Republic for six months in 1965.  In 1966, Bill became a Sergeant Major. When the Vietnam War began, Bill served two tours before coming back to America in 1970.

Bill has an incredible accumulation of medals and ribbons that he received in his 30 years of service.  Among these are two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.  He retired in 1973 in Melbourne, Florida, where he still resides today, volunteering as a director of the Liberty Bell Museum. He is now a honorary member of the French Foreign Legion and many other similar organizations.  He now makes frequent trips to Europe as an 88 year old man that's still ready to go to war. He has a lot of energy and quite the sense of humor. It has been an honor to get to know Bill, he is a great man, and a true American hero. 

Anna Zachary, senior
Eddie Sterling, sophomore