BEVERLY HILLS — A few days ago, a package arrived in the mail from the widow of my late father-in-law, Colonel Dale Denman, Jr., of Heber Springs, Arkansas. I opened it and there was a leather holster and inside it, a German Luger pistol. My father-in-law had taken it from a captured German officer in early 1945 and kept it for almost sixty years. He had left his wife instructions that I was to get it.
You’ve probably seen ones like it in movies. They look deadly. The Germans made a lot of them to give as a standard sidearm to officers in World War II. I wonder what this pistol did. Kill totally innocent Jews? Lead a charge against British or American soldiers? I just know that after a fierce firefight near the Czech border, it was captured by my father-in-law, along with its keeper.
Now, I have it next to my bed in a drawer along with many letters from Col. Denman.
I know there are a lot of these Lugers around. You can buy them at antique gun shops and gun shows. But this one is special to me. Here is what it says:
My brave father-in-law, representative of tens of millions of American men and women who have gone off to fight for freedom, fought against cruel, tenacious enemies. They often lost their lives in so doing. They prevailed and I get to live in spectacular freedom, glorious, bright freedom, every day because men like Col. Denman were as brave as they were.
I have relatives and friends who get out of bed every morning and do an hour of exercise to keep them fit. I don’t do that. My exercise is that I get out of bed and hit my knees and thank God for waking up in America, where I live in peace and freedom, no Gestapo chasing me, no KGB putting me in the Gulag, no Hamas blowing me up. All thanks to men like Col. Denman and the heroism he showed capturing this Luger.
That exercise does not keep me thin, most assuredly. But it does set me up for my day by putting me into an attitude of gratitude for the men and women who wore the uniform and still wear the uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere. My wife is not giving me any presents this holiday season and I am only giving her one. Instead, we are sending gifts to the American fighting men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan to show we’re thinking of them. This Luger reminds me it’s the least we can do.