I recently finished the book, D-Day, by Stephen Ambrose. D-Day occurred on June 6, 1944 when allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy by ship and plane to defeat Hitler’s evil Nazi Germany. There are literally thousands of stories of bravery and heroism to tell from that day, but I want to share with you one that stands out in my mind of Sgt. Harrison Summers of West Virginia. Because there was so much confusion and so many misdrops that day, most of the men were in the wrong place and ended up fighting with soldiers they had never met from other companies. Squads formed as soldiers happened to meet up on the battle field.
Sgt. Summers was instructed to take fifteen such men to capture a German barracks occupied by a full strength German company. I will let Mr. Ambrose tell you the rest of the story:
“Summers grabbed one man […] and told him, ‘Go up to the top of this rise and watch in that direction and don’t let anything come over that hill and get on my flank. Stay there until you’re told to come back.’ [The man] did as ordered.
Summers then went to work, charging the farmhouse, hoping his hodgepodge squad would follow. It did not, but he kicked the door and sprayed the interior with his tommy gun. Four Germans fell dead, others ran out a back door to the next house. Summers, still alone, charged that house; again the Germans fled. His example inspired [a private] to come out of the roadside ditch where the group was hiding, set up his light machine gun, and begin laying down a suppressing fire against the barracks building.
Once more Summers dashed forward. The Germans were ready this time; they shot at him from loopholes but, what with [the private’s] machine-gun fire and Summers’s zigzag running, failed to hit him. Summers kicked in the door and sprayed the interior, killing six Germans and driving the remainder out of the building.
Summers dropped to the ground, exhausted and in emotional shock. He rested for half an hour. His squad came up and replenished his ammunition supply. [Afterwards] he charged another building, killing six more Germans. The rest threw up their hands. Summers’s squad was close behind; he turned the prisoners over to his men.
One of them […] called out to Summers: ‘Why are you doing it?’
‘I can’t tell you,’ Summers replied.
‘What about the others?’ [the man asked.]
‘They don’t seem to want to fight,’ said Summers, ‘and I can’t make them. So I’ve got to finish it.’” (2)
Sgt. Summers went on that day to kill or capture at least sixty more Germans. His actions earned him a battlefield commission and a Distinguished Service Cross. I tell this story because when Christians are faced with something like Operation: Luke 10, they may be divided into two groups.
In the first group there will be those like Sgt. Summers who chose to fight the war before him regardless of who else does. The second group will consist of those who for whatever reason will choose to stay in the ditch hiding from the enemy.
The Christian life is not about earning a commission or a medal…we are out to please our Lord and receive a victor’s crown.
My challenge to each of you is to follow me in “bringing Christ to our city.” Get out of the ditch, and let’s go after this together. Let’s each be prepared for the rewards we will receive from our God on that final day. Are you with me? I can’t make you, but “I’ve got to finish it.”
So what is the challenge for the Christian? In a word: “Go.”
Stephen E. Ambrose, D-Day June 6th 1944: The Climactic Battle of WWII (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), 297-298.