… In Memory of Memorial Day

My first encounter with America was in my native England, during the immediate years following the end of WWII. Not ten miles from where my sister and I were born, Burtonwood Air Force Base, also known as USAAF Station 590, was temporary home to some 20,000 American airmen and other members of the US Military, shipped over to provide air support and other logistics, for the D-Day Normandy landings.

USAF At Burtonwood (USAAF Station 590)

USAF At Burtonwood (USAAF Station 590)

The memory of those wonderful men, who would cruise our war-torn neighborhoods in their open-top jeeps, dispensing candy, chewing gum, chocolates, bananas, oranges, and other goodies, so sparse to us at the time, was so seared into my young mind, that I developed a dogged persistence to the seed of “one day, I’m going to live in America, and be like these airplane pilots.”

To get an impression of what I’m describing, the movie Yanks has it all. It was filmed in, and around the area in 1979, starring Richard Gere, Vanessa Redgrave, William Devane and others, and is as clear an image of those immediate post-war years, as anything you could imagine, and is well worth the viewing (see the “Hollywood Endings” clip at the bottom).

Hard to believe, that a young boy, barely five or six years old at the time, would be so bowled over by the kindness and largesse of American Military men, that he would be emboldened enough to want to model himself after them.

Reunion at Dobcross, location scene from Yanks..

Reunion at Dobcross, location scene from Yanks..

He did however, wake up in absolute sheer delight on Christmas morning 1949, to find a shiny red two-seater jeep under the Christmas tree. It was also emblazoned with the United States Air Force winged star on the bonnet (hood), and boy and sister spent many a wonderful day, pedal-driving that jeep proudly up and down the street where they lived.

The dream became a reality in the Fall of 1981, when I finally made it as a resident of the United States, via a career-circuitous route that took in professional soccer, engineering college, teaching, retailing, business management, marriage (twice), and three wonderful sons. Sojourns in Jamaica, Canada, and elsewhere, were steps on the way, but the ultimate goal was achieved.

Arriving as I did, during the presidency of Ronald Wilson Reagan, didn’t hurt. In him, from him, and through watching what he was able to accomplish for America, I sensed the same attitude of freedom-loving patriotism, that I had witnessed from those Burtonwood airmen many years before.

Field Marshall Montgomery at Burtonwood 1949

Field Marshall Montgomery at Burtonwood 1949

In the thirty years since, I have become as Americanized as those mid-18th Century Brits, who forged a new nation by wrenching power away from a tyrannical Royal. I have experienced America at its finest, and dare I say, I now see it at its worst. What has happened in the past 22 months would have been hard to imagine 30 years ago, even with the Reagan years coming so gloriously following the Carter debacle.

In his farewell address to the nation, September 19th of 1796, George Washington declared: “Citizens by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.”

Uncle Jack, Cousin Reg, Uncle Ralph, Diane & Me c1948

Uncle Jack, Cousin Reg, Uncle Ralph, Diane & Me c1949

I am no great orator, or newstalk guru, television show host, nor celebrity dancer, but I am now as American as apple pie. When I see my country crying out for someone to please help, my mind goes immediately to the Old Testament prophet Isaiah who, upon finding himself in the throne room of heaven, was asked the question of God: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”

Isaiah, like America today, found himself on the cusp of God’s grace, but felt bold enough to answer the call. That little boy of 1949, scooting around the back streets of Wigan, in his shiny red USA Air Force jeep, emblazoned with the US Air Force winged star on the bonnet, would expect no less of the man he has become.



Face of Jesus by Richard Hook

Soli Deo Gloria!

Copyright (c) 2010 Dennis G Hurst /America on the Cusp of God’s Grace