Christmas Eve. 1941. Hong Kong.
A continuous bevy of shots from assault rifles and machine gun fire filled the air like a devilish percussion straight from hell. Mortars and grenades exploded around them like thunder cracks of mass destruction. Bullets, dirt, and shrapnel shot through the air. Men shouted and screamed as blood poured out upon the earth.
“Danny!” Joe yelled as he saw his friend take a bullet.
Crimson blood stained the front of his olive-drab field jacket as he clutched at his stomach. His knees buckled and he fell to the ground.
Joe bolted forward from the protection of the foxhole.
“Danny!” he exclaimed breathlessly as he fell on his knees beside him.
Danny was the youngest guy in their platoon. Only eighteen. They’d all taken him under their wing like the kid brother of the group.
Now the boy’s face was pale and his eyes wide. One glance at the blood pouring out of the wound told Joe all he needed to know, but he fought it anyway.
He grabbed the kid under the arms and dragged him back toward the foxhole. Eddie joined him halfway and helped him move the boy quicker.
“Hang on, kid; you’re gonna be okay,” Joe said as he attempted to apply pressure to the wound.
They all knew he wouldn’t be.
“Joe,” Danny said weakly. “Joe. Would you…get my bible? In my…left pocket.”
Joe found the small leather-bound book.
Joe found the chapter and began reading.
A tear slipped down his dirt covered face as he read the fourteenth verse. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Danny started coughing violently and Joe stopped reading.
Blood appeared at the side of the boy’s mouth.
“Danny,” Joe murmured as his heart wrenched inside him.
“It’s okay, Joe. I’m ready.”
The boy sucked in a few rugged breaths and his body went limp.
Joe let out a sob and his eyes fell upon the last verse that he’d read.
“Peace,” he spat. “Show me peace in this hellhole.”
Eddie gave a nod toward Danny’s tranquil face. “That’s peace, Joe. Knowing God. Knowing that no matter what happens down here…all that really matters…is what’s in here.”
He tapped the place above his heart.
The fighting intensified around them and they were forced to evacuate their station, but, before they left, Joe tucked the Bible inside his jacket.
He didn’t know if there was anything to it or not, but, if there was, he wanted to find out. He desperately wanted—needed—to find that peace that Eddie was talking about. The peace that gave Eddie that kind, quiet spirit. The peace that let Danny calmly slip out of this war-ravaged earth and into the Father’s arms.
He glanced up through the smoke toward the night sky and did something he’d never done before.
Lord…show me peace.
© Whitney L. Schwartz