God Be with Us

Lenten Reflection, Sunday, March 22, 2020

Shared by Robin Lind; Reprinted with permission from Rives Carroll

[As we begin to commemorate the anniversary of VE-Day, the end of the World War II in Europe, 75 years ago, it is fitting to remember the service of not only the soldiers, sailors, and airmen but also the pastors, priests and rabbis who accompanied them, shared their tribulations and ministered to their needs. The following excerpts are taken from “Chaplain, The World War II Letters of Army Air Corps Chaplain Paschal Dupuy Fowlkes,” edited by Rives Fowlkes Carroll; © 2018, reprinted by permission.]

March 16, 1945:
Writing to his wife, back home in Richmond, Virginia with their two small children, the young U.S. Army Air Corps Chaplain in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, expressed his innermost concerns for mankind:

“When we realize that a man’s wealth consists not in what he possesses but in what he does we’ll have taken a first step toward the cure of our universal disease. But the real cure is, I fear, something that requires more heroism than can be faced by most of us.

“Sometimes I feel like two people in the same job. Half of me is, I suppose, taken in by government propaganda and tends to equate the cessation of hostilities with peace. The other half sees that wining the war will, of itself, solve no world problems and may only introduce a new stage that is worse. Between them I don’t know what I’d do — I suppose I’d go crazy — if I was not fighting for ideals that the average G.I. either doesn’t understand or repudiates. It is sadly true. I can’t understand why a man fights for the freedom of the Jews or Czechs or the Filipinos thousands of miles away if he doesn’t believe in freedom for the Negroes or Jews in his home state…*

March 23, 1945:
A week later, preparing his men of the 3rd Battalion, 507th PIR, for an air drop the next morning into Fluren Germany, he exhorted them to prepare for the combat:

“I am particularly anxious that you should see your participation in this struggle in its proper perspective, in relation to the total significance of the struggle itself and in relation to your life. For the struggle itself we can say only that it is a heightened and more violent phase of the battle that went on between good and evil in this world before war was declared and that will go on after the war is past. … The battle for the preservation of decency and of freedom and of justice is a battle that never begins and never ends; it just always is. This makes life, your life and my life, a kind of warfare in which we are ever constantly engaged… Peace, therefore, is never mere absence of war. True peace is that knowledge that comes to us that in the midst of the warfare we are doing out duty. …

“We do not know all the future holds for us. What we think and hope is that it holds high adventure, What we fear is only fear itself. What we know is that if God be with us, as we pray He is, no one can stand against us, and none can keep from us the Peace which comes with knowing that we do His will.”*

March 24, 1945:
This morning, seventy-five years ago, — six weeks before the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany — Army Air Corps Chaplain Captain “Pat” Fowlkes, 29, former rector of two rural Fairfax County parishes, (St. John’s, McLean, and Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna), was killed by enemy machine-gun fire after parachuting into enemy territory with his troops.

He was survived by his wife and two small children, and a host of aunts and uncles and cousins, many of whom are today members of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.