Two Lives Well Lived

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By John Shindlebower

Millions of Americans watched the  funeral services of former President George H.W. Bush last week, and though it was a somber occasion to be sure, there was a sense of pride and patriotism felt among most Americans as we listened to the speeches and witnessed the pomp and ceremony that surrounded the events.
Whether you agreed with his politics and policies while he served in the White House or not, there’s little room for debate that the elder Bush was an American hero who represented the last of a great generation. As a teenager, he put off his college education to join the Navy following the attack on Pearl Harbor. At age 20, the plane he was piloting was shot down, and he was the only survivor of the crew of three.
That moment shaped Bush’s world view and helped prepare him for future leadership roles in ways that most modern presidents have not been.
For me, last week’s ceremony was not simply a way to honor a single life, but it served as a final grand farewell to the entire World War II generation. There are precious few veterans from that war remaining, and America should take advantage of every opportunity available to say thank you and show appreciation for the sacrifice and hard work of those who survived a depression, defeated two formidable military foes and then rebuilt a nation.
On Saturday, Spencer County lost one of those men. Mason Rucker, 95, of Elk Creek, passed away and joined the ranks of those who have gone on before.
I knew Mason from church, and also from several interivews I had the honor of doing with him over the course of the last 15 or so years. Mason and his wife Irene, were the perfect examples of that generation.
He was a soldier who landed just days after D-Day and took part in the liberation of France. An infantryman, Rucker and three others in his unit hitched a ride on top of a tank as they made their way across an empty field near St. Lo, France. They were ambushed by Germans, and he was the only one riding on the tank who survived, but he was not unscathed. He suffered a head injury, broken ribs and had a couple of fingers shot off his left hand. He spent 18 months in various military hospitals before returning home.
He met Irene on a blind date and they soon married, bought a farm near Mt. Eden, and began a family. While Rucker’s actions in war produced medals, it’s the life he and Irene lived after the war, lives repeated by other veterans and their families all over the U.S., that rebuilt this country.
They farmed, they raised a family, the served their community and church. Rucker would also work and eventually retire from General Electric.
They were active at Mt. Eden Christian church for decades and later were founding members and instrumental in a new church plant 20 years ago that would become Spencer Chrisitan Church.
In his wallet, Mason kept a poem he had written many  years ago. He could recite it from memory until recently. It perfectly sums up his life of service and the hope his faith played in carrying him through.
I’m proud to have met Mason and others from his generation. May we learn from their example.

My memories go back to when I was a lad,
I lived at home with my sisters, brothers, Mother and Dad.
We lived on a farm and my horses pulled my plow,
When I got my draft card, I didn’t burn it, or hide behind a cow.
When I left home, it was a sad day,
But I knew it was war, it wasn’t a time to play.
I shouldered my gun, and went overseas,
I did it for you, the U.S.A., and me.
Lots of nights I slept in a fox hole, that hole was six foot deep,
You can bet I didn’t get a wink of sleep.
Several nights I slept in a slit trench,
And bombs and bullets fell all around.
But we finally ran the enemy,
Right out of town.
Then I was wounded, war had ended for me.
But the war raged on, across the sea.
When I’m gone, bury me four feet deep,
Just put creek rock at my head and feet.
When I’m gone, please don’t cry,
For I will be with Jesus up in the sky.
I hope to meet with each of you, by and by,
For John Mason Rucker will never die.

     - John Mason Rucker