While at the War Memorial a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of the story of a couple of Aussie soldiers during World War 1.
One night in the nightmare of trench warfare, a young lieutenant commanded his men to attack the enemy. Obeying the officer’s command the men left the safety of their trench and began the crawl toward the enemy. They were spotted and the bullets suddenly hones in on them. They quickly retreated to their own trenches. When the gunfire ceased it was strangely still, except for the moaning and groaning of those lfeft behind in no-mans land, wounded.
One of them kept crying for his friend George, begging him to come and save him. George in turn pleaded with the lieutenant to let him go. But the young officer said “No” over and over again, trying to explain that he didn’t want to lose another man in what would be a foolhardy rescue attempt. I’ve lost him, I don’t want to lose you as well”, the lieutenant shouted. But the young digger kept pleading and finally in exasperation the officer said “Okay! If you want to get yourself killed, go ahead! I’m tired of listening to you whinge!”
The young soldier sneaked over the edge of the trench and inched his way along the ground, grabbed his friend and slowly pulled him back to safety, pushing him into the trench and then falling in on top of him. But it was too late – he was dead. The lieutenant angrily yelled at him “George, I told you there was no point in your bravery. Why did you risk your life? What did you achieve? There was no point, you were a fool!” George answered, “I was no fool. When I got to him he was still alive, and the last words he said were “George, I knew you would come!”
That is the tradition of mateship and friendship that we have inherited. That is what a true friend does. Maybe that is why I am so saddened when I speak to anyone within the military who feels alone and say they have no friends. Yes, development of friends takes time and effort, but we need each other! In fact, that is what Jesus did for us as well, offering us an answer to the despair and hopelessness we feel and promising to be our friend.
Chaplain Ian S Whitley