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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Inner Strength (04/20/06)

TITLE: The Interview
By Susan Gurney


“Folks, this is Harold Bybee of Christian Radio Station JJPQ with something special this Veteran’s Day. Today I’ll be speaking with Mr. Bill Wiseman, a World War II veteran. Thank you, Mr. Wiseman, for coming to share with us your war experiences.”

“Thank you, Harold, for having me. –Please, call me Bill. This is the first time I’ve had a chance to tell my story to the public. I’ve told my story many times to my kids—but, well, this is different…”

“If it helps—Bill—pretend you’re talking to me alone.”

“OK, Harold. Where would you like me to begin?”

“Well, in preparing for this interview I spoke to your son. He told me that you have a special strength and ‘stillness’ about you. He mentioned that you credit this to something you call your ‘Quiet Center’. Can you explain what you mean by that, and how it relates to your experiences during World War II?”

“I got into the war a little late…less than eight months before the end of the war in Europe. I was a green field-commissioned lieutenant assigned to help mop up the mess in Italy after the main Allied invasion of 1943. Mussolini—the Axis leader of Italy--had just met his end, but there were still bands of hooligans loyal to him who were terrorizing the villagers.”

“Bill, how old were you then? Were you already a Christian?”

“Harold, I was twenty at the time. When I went off to war I was what I’d call ‘an untested Christian.’ I’d given my heart to Jesus as a lad of twelve and had attended church whenever our family made the twenty mile drive to town—which wasn’t often--but I’d always lived a life sheltered from the outside world. I grew up in a close-knit family on a sheep ranch in Montana. I worked hard, but I had a lot of free time to hunt and fish, too. The only violence I ever saw was when a coyote killed a lamb or when I’d shoot a deer for our food.”

‘’—Bill, did you have that ‘quiet center’ when you were in Italy back in 1944?”

“Heavens, no! I was scared to death every waking minute. There were snipers, the noise of Allied tanks rumbling over the broken cobblestones, and rumors that the Germans were going to storm in at any moment and reclaim Italy. Then there was the fact that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. My sergeant saved my life--and my ego--on more than one occasion!”

“Did any of these experiences bring you closer to God?”

“In all honesty, no. I was like a rudderless ship. I couldn’t pray, and I felt like God didn’t even exist. When you see starving, dirty orphans scrambling over the rubble of their former homes begging for crusts of bread, it’s hard to believe in a loving God…”

“But something must have happened…?”

“Yes. One day my superior officer led me to an alley in a village near Rome and told me I was to identify the bodies lying there…and to locate next of kin. Then he left me alone… Someone had herded twenty men from the countryside, lined them up against a wall and opened fire on them. I stood stunned. I knew no Italian, had no way of knowing who these poor men were--and then there was the blood, the flies, the smell… I collapsed in a heap and wept for myself, for these men, for the world itself… I don’t know how much time passed, but eventually a chorus of soft wailing brought me out of myself. I looked up to see a group of about thirty peasant women, tears streaming down their faces. In quiet dignity they walked to the pile of bodies, found their loved ones, lifted them in their arms and carried them away. When all had left, I walked in a trance back to my unit. I don’t recall much of the war after that… I don’t think I really woke up until a year later when I found myself standing hip-deep in that river back on my family’s ranch, fishing. I remember looking around and suddenly screaming out to God all the anger and pain that I had bottled up. I spent that whole summer fishing and talking to God. –And that’s when He became my ‘Quiet Center’, my inner strength. Nothing has ever again come between me and my God.”

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This article has been read 729 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Paynter04/27/06
What a great story - I wonder if there's any truth to it? I love the way he struggled, shouted and raged, but through adversity found a new depth to his relationship with God
Marilyn Schnepp 04/27/06
Wow! What a fantastic story! Melted me down into a piece of mush and tears. Great job on this particular topic of Inner Strength...and also well written.
Stevie McHugh04/27/06
I love this well written story. It rings true and is a great testimonial.
terri tiffany04/28/06
excellent..and a refreshing way to present the topic. Is it true? This could touch so many.
Jan Ackerson 04/29/06
Awesome. Bill's voice rings absolutely true, and his story is riveting.
Suzanne R05/01/06
You set the scene well - both the scene in the radio station and on the battle field. A 'Quiet Center' - a good concept.