James 1:17 ESV
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Psalm 107:1 ESV
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Ephesians 5:20 ESV
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Philippians 4:6 ESV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
On this Veteran’s Sunday, we all have things for which we are thankful. These are just a few passages of scripture that encourage us to give thanks. In particular, we are to be thankful in all circumstances. Being far away from home for Thanksgiving gives us a taste of that. I found these stories from the military during World War II.
Cliff Sampson of Plymouth, US Navy 1942-1945: “My first military Thanksgiving was in 1942 at Great Lakes. We had a big mess hall and it was a typical Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the fixings, apple pie and mince pie. They tried to make it special and, of course, everybody was hepped on the war. Just being a little recruit, you didn’t have much to say about it anyhow, you just did what they told you and ate what they gave you. But it was good food, I can’t complain. Some of the food probably was better than a lot of people ever had before they were in the service. Some people came from poverty… “Thanksgiving 1945 I was home in Plymouth with my family and my wife. We were getting ready to settle down and I was back to work, running the store again. It was a great feeling to be home, after being blown up on a ship in July (the USS YMS 84 yard mind sweeper was blown up 3 July 1945, Cliff Sampson received the Purple Heart) and then in November, I’m out of the service and the war is over. I feel sorry for all those that didn’t come back. It was a great experience, but it’s too bad for those who had to leave us. They fought for a great cause.”
Bill Shepard of Plymouth, 102 Infantry Division (“Ozark Division”), U.S. Army, stationed in Ohio, Germany and Wales: “The Armed Forces were absolutely adamant about getting the troops a Thanksgiving dinner, all over the world, no matter who you were or what you were doing. Whether it was on the front lines THANKSGIVING “OVER THERE” *** World War Two Voices from the Front or in a big fort like Sam Houston in San Antonio, they always made sure that the Armed Forces got a Thanksgiving dinner. Christmas meals were also somewhat like that, but I remember the Thanksgiving dinners — there were always turkeys and pies and everything you would have at home. The food was often cold, if you were in the field (Thanksgiving Day 1944, the Ozark Division had just broken through the Siegfried Line at Aachen), but it was Thanksgiving.”
Stanley Collins, US Navy: “I was on submarine duty in the Pacific in the year 1943. We were in the area off the cost of the Philippines. I remember having a complete turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. While the turkeys were cooking, the submarine took a dive. We went down too steeply and the turkeys fell out of the oven onto the deck. The cook picked them up and put them back into the oven — and we ate them, regardless of what may have gotten on them as a result of their fall. That meal was so good!”
Ervin Schroeder, 77th Infantry Division, 3rd Battalion, I Company, US Army: “On Thanksgiving Day, we made our landing on Leyte Island in the Philippines very early in the morning. We therefore missed our dinner aboard ship. Somewhere down the beach from where we landed, the Navy sent us ham and cheese sandwiches. My buddy happened to get one of the sandwiches and brought it back to our area. I was complaining to him for not bringing one back for me when he started to have stomach cramps… At this point, I shook his hand and thanked him for not bringing me a sandwich.”
Ed Campbell, US Marine Corps, 1943-1945, had spent 3 different Thanksgivings in service. He says this about the last one. “The third and last Thanksgiving (1945), I landed in Boston on Thanksgiving Day… I walked around the city for a little bit, with joy in being immersed in the quietness of Boston — it was around 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning. I decided I would take a taxi home to Quincy. I had enough money — my discharge money — so I was able to pay for a cab to take me home in style. Of course, we had a great Thanksgiving. My mother had all the relatives and old friends there — I had called her to say that I would be home on Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful day to come home. It was literally the first day of the rest of my life.”
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever. Give thanks always and for everything. Sing songs of thanks and whatever you do, in word or deed, give thanks to God for Jesus. Do not worry, but pray and give thanks. Give thanks in ALL circumstances. We’re told all throughout the Bible to give thanks. And not just in the good and easy times, but in the hard, trying times as well.
Stuart, Mike’s cousin, wrote this about his Granddad for the funeral.
“In a book that Tom Brokaw authored, he labeled the generation that fought in and supported our country during WWII as the greatest generation that ever lived. He went on to describe this group of people as the greatest generation that any society ever produced; not only for their efforts winning the war, but for the way they lived their lives. I am sure everyone here has known someone who was a part of this generation and can easily testify to their godly and selfless character and how true Tom Brokaw’s characterization is.
I can certainly do this in the case of my grandfather. Bob Jeter joined the Marine Corps when he was 17 years old. He fought in the critically important Battle of Iwo Jima and was one of the few soldiers to survive. During the battle one of his friends was buried alive on the shores of the beach during a shelling. My grandfather saved his life by quickly digging him up and getting him to safety. They remained best friends for the rest of their lives. He was awarded three purple hearts for his time in the Marine Corps. After being discharged, he went to work for McKesson Drug as a worker in the warehouse. He got this job by using the GI Bill. Over the course of his career, he worked his way up to the position of vice president of McKesson Drug.
These are obviously all things to be proud of, but the accomplishment Bob Jeter was most proud of was the fact he and his wife of 60 plus years, Helen Jeter, raised a Christian family. My uncle overheard him say this on the golf course in response to a question about 15 years ago.
Everything my grandfather did was centered on Christ. He was a dedicated member of this church for 40 plus years. He served at Brush Hill as an elder, Sunday School teacher and in many other roles. He, along with my grandmother, were very actively involved in numerous ministries in East Nashville over the course of their lives. He began each day of his life with prayer and scripture reading and ended it in the same way.
It is truly a blessing if you have ever had anyone in your life who you can to to for advice on anything that is on your heart and know that you will receive profound, thoughtful, wise guidance in return. Because of the relationship I had with my grandfather, Bob Jeter, I knew someone like this.”
He wrote this letter to his family.
I suppose you know by now that I am on Iwo Jima, and best of all I am still alright.
I have had several close ones, but the good Lord seemed to want me to stay in good shape a little longer.
There isn’t much I can say, or they’ll let me say, except that I am alright, and I intend to stay that way.
I’ll write more when I have more time and something to say.
I still haven’t seen Howard but I passed his island.
Your loving son,
Pfc Robert E. Jeter
Written March 3, 1945. He was wounded (3rd time) and evacuated on March 12. One day after his 20th birthday. He’s the one who Enoch mentioned in last week’s children sermon who had the purple hearts. When granddad was at Maybelle Carter, an assisted living facility, his neighbor would make stuffed teddy bears. That was one of the things Enoch took with him when we had to evacuate for the hurricane because as he said last week, it reminds him of his grandfather and he indeed was a great man.
I have hope for our country. At Girl State I loved to sing the song “God Bless the U.S.A.” because when we sang the part “And I gladly stand up” we would stand up. Close to 600 high school juniors. It wouldn’t have the same impact if I did it alone. We have to do it together. “And I gladly stand up NEXT TO YOU.” We have to be united as a country and a nation under God. We won’t survive if we don’t. We’ve become so insular, so jaded, such experts on the way we see the world, that we don’t celebrate America for what it is. A glorious melting pot of neighbors, of brothers and sisters, of fathers and mothers, of real people. I’ve always believed that the way to Christ is in relationship. Our personal relationship and our communal relationship. We personally need to dig into the Word, fast and pray, and cultivate and tune in to the True Vine, but we also need to live it out, forming relationships with our neighbors, the person we see every week at the coffee shop and we always wonder if we should strike up a conversation, the frazzled mother at the grocery store holding on to her squirming children while she drops her groceries. Be the change you want to see in the world. AND give thanks for all that you have been given. For example, your house, your food, your job, your freedom, this great country. I challenge you to see and name three things for which you are thankful at the end of every night. Do it for the month of November and tell me what happens. My prayer and hope is that you will ignite within you a Spirit of Gratitude.
We recognized our veterans at our special service and played this song and invited them to come forward for every branch.