Chaplains host Holocaust Remembrance

  • Published
  • By Christin Michaud
  • AFMAO Public Affairs
Airmen gathered for a Holocaust Remembrance at Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations April 16, 2015 in the atrium of the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

The event focused on the theme "significance" and offered AFMAO personnel the opportunity to learn more about the tragic events of the holocaust and hear stories of the servicemen who liberated the German concentration camps.

Guest speaker, Rev. Timothy Evans, shared stories from his father's experience as a medic and messenger in World War II.

John Evans served in the Army's 84th Armored Medical Battalion in France in 1944 and 1945. Upon his arrival in France, he was given a general purpose vehicle to drive around the medical commander.

The jeep, which is said to have gotten its name from soldiers using the acronym GPs, had only 11 miles on it when Evans' father received it. The soldier fulfilled his duties, always ready to drive the colonel around when he was needed. He also treated patients as a medic.

Among the many missions Evans' father performed, he vividly remembers the day he took his commander to a German concentration camp and saw first-hand the human toll of the Holocaust.

"He said they had a haunting look on their eyes," said Evans.

For some of them, shared Evans, their eyes were all they could move. According to him, the experience is something that can never be forgotten.

In the days following this troubling experience, the German Army surrendered to the Allied forces and Evans' father returned to the United States.  Although he voluntarily joined the war effort, he never viewed himself as a hero. Despite his humble demeanor, he remains a hero in his son's eyes.

"The true heroes are the general purpose people being steady, faithful and true, day after day," said Evans. 

Much like the significance of the general purpose vehicles designed to support the Army's mission during the war.

"Thank you heroes for what you do," Evans said to the audience of military members who support the mortuary mission.

The 14th Armored Division became known as liberators. Something service members are still doing today.

"History repeats itself," said Col. Dan Merry, AFMAO commander, who said he never expected to be liberating Iraqis from Saddam Hussein when he first enlisted in 1982. "It behooves you to pay attention to history."

The colonel encouraged anyone who has never been to a concentration camp to go if they ever have the opportunity, adding he still remembers an etching of liberation from his visit to the Dachau concentration camp.

The remembrance was a reminder that although it's been 60 years and the Holocaust may seem like ancient history, it is very present and real to some, said David Sparks, AFMAO chaplain. On this day, the team at AFMAO remembered the 6 million lives lost during this brief pause in their day. In addition to the speaker, the remembrance included lighting candles, poems and prayer.

"Remember those who fought and those who suffered," said Sparks. "We will remember with honor."