Celebrating Veteran's Day
April 20, 1943. The Submarine USS Grenadier was discovered and attacked by the enemy, the Japanese. Onboard that night was our chapel speaker this past week, Tim McCoy, a Seaman First Class. Losing all power and lighting the submarine sank in 270 feet of water, sinking to the bottom of the sea with a fire burning in the control room. Using boy scout methods and all hands on board, they repaired the damaged submarine enough to raise it to the surface. That's where they were detected by a Japanese ship. His captain ordered all men to scuttle. Abandon the ship! Right into the hands of the Japanese. Taken prisoner onboard the Japanese ship and taken to Penang. Confined to two separate rooms at the Light Street Catholic Convert where the nuns were also held captive. These prisoners would carve their names on the door of the convent. The names are still there today. A memorial. The first 7 days---one spoonful of water total for each seaman. They had to stand at attention for 24 hours for those 7 days. When one would collapse, the other would pick him up and let them rest on their shoulder. Meanwhile the Commanding Officer went through waterboarding for those 7 days. Then enemy's intent: to strip him of any info he would give about America and its operations. Never did any of McCoy's troops divulge any information to the enemy, no matter what!
The torture continued for 4 months. Starvation. Beatings. Splinters driven up their nails. Pencils mashed with sledgehammer force between their knuckles and toes. The only food for four months was one cup of uncooked rice in 120 days. They went from strapping young men to under 100 pounds each. Some died of starvation. One fell into a trance, the pain was so overwhelming---his name was George Snyder. He began hallucinating about food, the good life.
At this point in the chapel talk, McCoy straightened up and with the charm of a gentle giant, he said to us: "Let me give you something to take with you. We all have trouble in our lives. Divorce. Loss. You can fight because of stories like George Snyder. You see, we had to put him in the hospital for losing touch with reality. He was a man of faith in overwhelming pain. Somehow, as I worked as a slave labor, one day it seemed as a blanket had been thrown over me. I knew I had to go to the hospital to see my friend in trouble. I knew he was dying. When I came to him, he was not in this world; but he was not in the next world either. Snyder looked up and said: 'Father, I see Thy Face.' And he slid right into heaven. So, this is my story. When no one can help you, God can. Give it a try. He was there. He is here today. It was my faith in God that got me through this. God carried me."
After the four months of torture, McCoy's crew was sent to Yokohama in Japan and they were split up and sent to work as slave laborers working in a steel mill, the world's second largest steel mill and shipyard in the world. This required the work ethic of a workhorse, not men barely 100 pounds. He worked as a slave laborer for a couple more years until the time that the war ended and they were released to come home. McCoy would be stateside a mere 3 days before he would meet the love of his life---his wife. That fractured soul met a helpmeet who adored him and would walk by his side for 59 years.
Now, I may not have all my facts 100% correct but this I know---I was touched in deep places in my heart today. What I loved about this gentleman is that he offered hope to each one of us. Take Courage! At this moment, a chapel full of awestruck teenagers, 75 years younger than this seaman, stood to join their High School Choir and the esteemed Lieutenant Tim McCoy in singing The Star-Spangled Banner. And that star-spangled banner that stands a few feet from our chapel door, that banner waved over the land of the free and the home of the brave today because of men like Tim McCoy.
I spoke with McCoy after Chapel and asked what was the difference in subsequent wars where so many do not embrace the same philosophy of being an overcomer. He shared with me: "To forgive is to set a prisoner free, only to find out you were the prisoner." I always tell myself: FIDO… "Forget it and drive on." No one can help you like God can.
McCoy remained in the Navy and was commissioned as an Ensign, and retired as Lieutenant after 24 years of active duty. He went back to the submarine, his friend. We celebrate this veteran!
Beautiful chapel message. His name is carved on the wall of the Convent in Malaysia. His brave story is engraved on a Navy tablet which time will not efface. And His God has engraved His Name Forever on the palm of His Hands. Isaiah 49:16. And McCoy's words have sunk into Hyde Park hearts - Psalm 51:6. Forgive.
I told him, with tears falling down my cheeks. God is the Lifter of your head. Then. And Now! Psalm 3:3.
God Bless America! God Bless our Veterans!