11.11.18

Remembering

George Vernon Amundson
I've written this in consideration of Memorial Day 2018. In 2008 American country singer Jamie Johnson released a song entitled, In Color. The song went on to win the CMA Song of the Year in 2009. The song is a ballad about an old man remniscing to his grandson as they look at old black and white pictures in a photo album. The second verse of the song says this,

Oh and this one here was taken over seas
In the middle of 1943
In the winter time, you can almost see my breath
That was my tail gunner ole Johnny Magee
He was a high school teacher from New Orleans
And he had my back right through the day we left
If it looks like we were scared to death 
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
You should have seen it in color [1]

I have a story to tell about a young second-generation Norwegian-American. He was born in Minnesota in 1924. The son of hardy Nordic stock, and being raised in a tight Norwegian community, he never spoke English until he started grade school. In fact, until the day he died his strong Norwegian accent never abated, this despite being born in the US. At age 17 he left home to join the military. In 1941 World War II was in full force and because he was 17 he needed special permission to join the Navy. For whatever reason his parents would not grant permission, but he was able to convince an aunt and uncle to sign the waiver. Though he joined the Navy he was never able to swim very well. This was a bit problematic since he was twice in open ocean combat zones in the theater of war, and twice he had naval vessels sunk from under him, having had to spend time in the ocean awaiting rescue. One of those times he was picked up and sent to France. The second time he was picked up by Russian allies and taken to Russia. During his time in Russia he tried to join the Norwegian Resistance, which was an underground resistance group organized against Hitler and the Third Reich, but he was refused since he was an American citizen. For his bravery he was awarded several medals and awards. When he returned from the war, and after he married, he was so stricken by the sights and sounds and memories of battle that one day he walked into the forest, away from their Minnesota farm, and threw the medals as far away as possible. He was loath to talk about his experience. In fact, we don’t know much more about his war-time experience. George Vernon Amundson died in 1989 at 65 years old, suffering for years the effects of war in his body. George Vernon Amundson was my father-in-law, Judy’s dad, and a dear Christian man.

Who will remember? Who will remember George Amundson? Who will remember the names of the soon-forgotten heroes, and who will remember the reason men and women make sacrifice, some of them the ultimate sacrifice? This is why Veteran's Day is important. This is why remembering is important. We mustn’t forget them or their stories.




[1]Johnson, Jamie, That Lonesome Song, In Color, Mercury Records, 2008

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