It was a brisk morning in France, November 1918. Frederick Wendell Beck, age 19, suddenly awoke next to a dead horse as gunfire flew over him so close he could feel it graze his unprotected head. He panicked as he scuffled for his helmet. He gasped for breath when he found it near the dead horse's mouth drenched in foam. He could not breathe well then realized he was still wearing the gas mask from the night before when he and his unit were attacked by mustard gas. He ripped it off and donned his helmet when he heard gunfire, then he took off running. He heard voices of a few men left in his unit that he could recognize and headed in that direction. Frederick Wendell Beck was a Medic in the United States Army and knew he had to find the wounded and do what he could to get them to safety.
He wore a red cross on his arm to keep from being shot at, however during war it didn't seem to make a difference, he too was seen as an enemy soldier. Medic Beck heard screams from several yards away, but the early morning mist made it difficult to see exactly who it was. He kept running towards the voice. Bullets breezed by his body as he dove towards the security of a tree. He heard German voices along with the Americans from his unit. Fear engulfed Beck as he realized they must be surrounded by Germans. He had no idea how many of the men in his unit were left. A loud burst pounded in the air then gunfire began to dwindle. Out of the mist a bloody and dirty Sergeant Thomas Roy came running. He fell at Medic Beck's feet.
"They are all dead." He exclaimed to Beck. "The Captain and the rest of the unit, all blown to pieces by the Germans and I am the only one left."
Beck yelled, "Where are you hurt Roy?" Medic Beck made a quick assessment of Sergeant Roy and discovered he was hit in the left chest. Beck grabbed him and dragged him as far away from the front line as he could. As soon as they were safe, Sergeant Roy explained what had happened. They were surrounded by Germans and it had happened so fast and so early in the morning that it was a surprise attack. Most of their unit had been killed right on the spot. Sergeant Roy's voice began to garble. Medic Beck was frantically attempting to stop the bleeding from the supplies in his belt bag.
Sergeant Roy said, "I shot as many Germans as I had ammo for. Then I threw a grenade. I believe I got most of them. Beck, we might be the only two left." Beck's heart sank to the bottom of his stomach. Then, as quickly as the shooting had stopped, Sergeant Roy's breathing stopped and blood oozed out of his mouth. He was gone. Medic Beck lowered his head, prayed a quick prayer and with his own tears welling up he used his hand to close Sergeant Roy's eyes. Dazed, Beck wiped the tears from his blue blood-shot eyes. He jerked off his helmet and threw it to the ground, brushing back his short dark wavy hair with his hands trying to gain composure as to what to do next. He said out loud to himself, "Where are you God? I am supposed to be saving lives, not watching them die." As he stood, his athletic 5 feet, 11 inch frame felt frail and broken by the ravage of war. He began walking and out of the crisp misty air he heard another voice, this time it was German. He knew a little German and was certain this voice was crying for help. Medic Beck took an oath to protect and save, so he turned and cautiously began walking towards the German's voice. As the voice got louder, Beck's heart pounded faster. Could this be his last day on Earth too like his fellow soldiers? Beck approached the German. Part of his lower right arm was blown off and he appeared to be hit in the abdomen. Medic Beck kneeled down and began working to stop the bleeding. He asked the German his name. Beck was not fluent in German but he thought he said he was Sergeant Krause, age 25.
Beck told him, "Hang on, I will take you to get help."
Sergeant Krause cried out in clear English, "No, they will save me then keep me prisoner. I don't want to be taken prisoner, let me die in peace. I just want a cigarette before I die."
Beck was shocked… a cigarette? Here they were at war and this man was dying and all he could think about was a cigarette? Beck understood though that he didn't want to be taken prisoner.
"Please," the German soldier pleaded. "Help me smoke my last cigarette before I die."
Medic Beck faced a dilemma. He quickly bowed his head and asked God to tell him what to do and the words, "Grant him his dying wish" came to him. So Beck reluctantly took the supplies out of the German’s top coat pocket, rolled the soldier a cigarette and helped him smoke it. Out of the mist another American Medic approached quickly and asked if they were okay. To Medic Beck's surprise, they were. Sergeant Krause was still alive.
The unknown Medic said, "Let's go, we got word an armistice has been signed and the war is over. Let's get him help." Beck's heart leaped with joy. God answered his prayer. Krause would live and not be taken prisoner. Had Beck moved the injured German, the other American Medic might not have found them in time. Medic Beck's listening to God saved the German's life. His dying wish became an opportunity for God's saving work.
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