I was born in 1959. As such I am old enough to have memories of the vets who fought in World War II. I knew three of them fairly well. All three of them were two generations older than me. Two of the three were Buster McFadden and Hoy Bundrick. I met them as connected to the first Church I served in Longtown, South Carolina. The third vet I knew the best was my own Grandfather; Carl Edward Jacobs.
Buster McFadden (John Clyde McFadden) was born in 1920 and my relationship to Buster was as the chief Elder in the first Church I served (Longtown Presbyterian Church). If it had not been for God raising up Buster in my life, it is, at least doubtful, that I would have ever ended up in the Ministry. I had been almost 2 years out of Seminary and all my resumes had been greeted with silence. Then one night out of the blue Buster phoned me and asked if I could fill the pulpit the coming Sunday. The chap who had been filling the pulpit for them (J. Tomlinson) was a couple years ahead of me in Seminary and due to some unforeseen circumstances JT was moving on and JT had left my name with Buster as a possible candidate to fill the pulpit. When Buster phoned I wasted no time responding with a energetic “yes,” to his offer. One week turned into two weeks which turned into two months which turned into a call to permanently Pastor the small rural Southern congregation. There are many many stories here but in this entry we want to focus on Buster.
I quickly learned that Buster was a WW II vet. He had fought in the Italian campaign and like many men who have seen combat he did not speak a great deal about his time in combat in Europe. He had mentioned buddies that had been seriously hurt and killed in a general way. I also remember Buster telling me how he used to get ribbed by this comrades for being a good old Southern boy.
Buster loved Longtown Presbyterian Church. He was the keyboardist for the hymn service even though he couldn’t read a note of music. He played all by ear. It was amazing to me how he could do that. Not only was Buster the main Elder and the Church musician he also mow the large church lawn weekly with a push mower. He would also often go with me when I did Church visitation and even occasionally hospital visits.
More than all this, in order to bring Jane and I and the girls (Anthony was not yet part of the family) out to Longtown SC, Buster arranged with the congregation’s approval to purchase a doublewide home and place it on the Church property as Church’s new Manse. He further provided a glorious front porch, children’s play house, and an out building for storage. Jane and I were convinced we had fallen into paradise. (If you knew where we had been living in Columbia SC, that would make more sense to you dear reader.)
One of my clearest memories of Buster was on a occasion when I was especially discouraged because I had suffered a particular loss in something I was pursuing. Buster, somehow had heard of my struggles and he showed up at the Manse and on our large front porch he addressed me.
“Get up. Get up. You can’t let this bring you down. You must rise above this. We need you here. Get up. Get up. Get up.”
I was shocked. This man of few words cared enough for me and for the Church that he would speak more at that time to me than he ever did at any one time in the whole time I served with him.
Like all of us Buster had his quirks. He always wore brown khakis — shirt and trouser and jacket. He didn’t much drive his brown khaki colored truck much over 45 mph up and down Longtown Road. He could be a real challenge to get around to this or that project that needed done. However, there wasn’t many other doing projects at the Manse or Church and so it is understandable if it took awhile for projects to be attended to.
Like any Grandfather, Buster loved his children and grandchildren and could often be found doting on them.
I can still hear and see in my mind’s eye Buster’s gentle laughter. He was a good man to have as my first Elder. He knew when I came there that I was still working through some Reformed issues in my mind (especially Baptism) but when I told him this he said, “Well, Bret, I will tell you what, if you promise to continue to do your reading and studying on these matters we will be patient with you coming around.” Within two years I baptized my three toddlers.
Yes, I know, from a Reformed polity position this was hardly according to Hoyle but it worked for me and I’m not sure any other arrangement would have worked. I thank God for Buster’s presence and patience in my life.
There in Longtown Buster had a friend named Hoy Bundrick. Hoy was also two generations ahead of me and had fought in World War II. More than once he told me the story of how he was with Patton in Europe and he figured having been with Patton in Europe he wasn’t going to be shy about asking Dot’s Father if he could marry Dot. It seems being with Patton in Europe filled Hoy with confidence.
Hoy, like Buster, was a good man. I slaughtered my first hog with Hoy and learned how to “use everything but the ‘oink.’ Hoy was routinely hosting pig roasts. He invited me to my first “Turkey shoot” and took me around the community introducing me to people that needed to be ministered to. Hoy consistently attended our midweek Bible Study, though he was true blue to his “Church of God — Anderson Indiana” connections. By that connection Hoy took me to my first “foot washing” ceremony. I’ve never done another one since.
Hoy loved Jesus and “the Lord” was always on Hoys mind. He would spend a good deal of time grilling me about this or that aspect of doctrine or denominational differences.
Hoy was also generous with his time. I was working two jobs (the Ministry and 30 plus hours a week with United Airlines in Columbia SC) and sometimes I didn’t know if I was coming or going. Hoy would, at those times, step into the gap and do this or that around the house. Hoy would cut the lawn, or fix this or that breakage (Air-conditioning, fans, etc.) in the Manse.
The thing about Buster and Hoy is that even though I was forty years their junior they always treated me with respect and honor. I never had to fight for my place with these men. Maybe it was a Southern thing. Maybe it was a military thing. Whatever it was they made me feel comfortable in my own skin. I did not have to put on pretensions with any of the congregation at Longtown SC. They loved Jane and I for who we were, warts and all.
The third WW II vet I knew was a man I knew the best of all three. His name was Carl Edward Jacobs. He was my Grandfather. Carl was born in 1916 and so when the war broke out he was 25, married, and with two children. Those men were a little lower on the draft board priority list and Grandpa Jacobs didn’t end up going to Europe until a little bit later. However, there was still plenty of fighting to be done.
More than Buster and Hoy, my grandfather spoke more about the war. However, this conversation didn’t happen until the last 5 years or so of his life. There were a couple thing particularly he confided to me in a conversation. I never coaxed this information. It just came in the context of a grandson talking to his grandfather.
The first arresting thing that Grandpa told me was about what happened to him during his time fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Grandpa was driving with the Big Red One moving men and supplies around. If you remember the Bulge was the last large German offensive push. The German army now was exhausted and depleted of men and as such the German offensive was manned by soldiers who had seen either too many winters or too few. There was German boys fighting as soldiers.
My grandfather had captured some of them. He brought them back to the Commanding Officer to ask what to do with them. Now, if you remember the Germans came within a whisper of breaking through the Allied defensive perimeter and if they had it would have been a new war. As such matters were hot and heavy. This included the disposition of Prisoners of War. Grandfather had these German kid soldiers who were POW’s and he asked the C/O what to do with them. The C/O told him “Take them out back there and shoot them.” Grandpa Jacobs responded, “I can’t do that. I have boys back home not much younger than these boys.”
Grandpa Jacobs also said he was part of the liberating forces of some of the German concentration camps. He spent some time describing what he saw there. It left an impression on him. I don’t know if he realized that what he saw would be the inevitable result of any nation with prisoners who could no longer even feed their own soldiers on the front lines. I don’t subscribe to the modern narrative that the Germans were building death camps that were any more remarkable than the concentration camps of all other combatant forces in terms of attempting to kill people.
Grandpa Jacobs was decorated (Bronze star as I recall) for his valor during the Battle of the Bulge. It seems he helped clear a road for the trucks to get through after a superior officer had told him to “give it up, and turn back.” He was a determined man (some might say stubborn) so it did not surprise me in the least that he cleared the road after some Lewy told him to turn around.
I could never know for sure but I think Grandpa Jacobs wore some of the hardness of that war through the rest of his life. Granted, up to that point he had had a pretty hard life and so maybe it wasn’t the war but just hard-scrabbling it as a child in a really bad family life during the depression.
The man was a workaholic. To this day I’ve never seen a man work harder, morning, noon, and night as my Grandfather. There are many stories down this line that perhaps will be told another. Suffice it to say that being a dairy farmer found him up at dawn to milk, to then move on to the other chores (hay, chopping wood, silage, tending to the other crops, etc.) to be done to keep the farm afloat, to be followed by the evening milking. Today my standard for working hard remains the memory of how that man worked on the farm.
Hoy, Buster, and Carl — three men from what is called “the silent generation.” Three men whose lives ended up being bound up with what happened “over there.” Three good men who did not fight and watch their buddies die in order that this country would become what it now is. Were they alive still they all would take up arms again, only this time to overthrow the Communists in Washington and in every state capital in America.
They were good men. Not perfect but honorable and men today are not the men they were.
I thank God that I was given the gift of knowing each one of them.