TWR Canada past-president Ray Alary blogged every Thursday, telling behind-the-scenes stories and ministry updates you won't find anywhere else. You can still access his stories and read about his time as a missionary with TWR.
He was a good hockey player, good enough that he played for General Motors (this would be equivalent to what we know as Junior A hockey now). The year was 1940; he was 26 years old and living the good life. But then something happened, and every man had to make a decision: would he or wouldn’t he serve?
Canada had declared war on Germany. The government was encouraging the younger generation to serve, and this man was 26 years old. That meant he was actually old enough that he wouldn’t have to join the army. He could continue to play hockey, continue to work at General Motors. He didn’t have to leave home and go into a dangerous unknown. However, he decided he would serve, so he went to the recruiting office to join up. He walked away disappointed when he was told he was too old.
This man was a lot like me: he loved to help people and when he set his mind to something, he was determined. There had to be a way he could serve. In those days, they didn’t always check your records well. After all, there were no computers, no databases, so the solution was easy: go to the next city, tell them you are a couple of years younger than you really are, and you could serve. I know all this because I know that the man I am writing about did just that; he was that determined to serve his country.
This man was my father, Andy Alary, born in a French community in southern Saskatchewan. He went to school at the end of his driveway where his mother was the teacher. This young man never spoke English until he was 13 years old. He grew up on a farm literally in the middle of nowhere. Winters were cold, and there wasn’t much to do; when they weren’t going to school, they were playing hockey. That is what eventually brought my father to Oshawa, Ontario and playing hockey for General Motors.
Seventy-five years ago today, my dad got on a Landing Craft Tank (LCT) in Portsmouth, a city in England; it was on its way to Southampton in preparation to cross the English Channel and would ultimately land on Juno Beach. It was D-Day, June 6, 1944, and my dad was in what they called the first wave. They went before even the infantry went. They were the gunners; they had to prepare the way so the infantry could land. An LCT was not a great craft to cross the English Channel with as it was a flat-bottomed boat and bobbed in the sea. Most of the men were seasick as they approached France, but as they approached the beach, all of that was forgotten. They had a job to do, and it required their full concentration.
My father’s responsibility in the artillery was to figure out the angle of the shot. If your angle was short, you would shell your own troops; if it was long, you wouldn’t hit your target. On that day, it was even harder as nothing was stable. The first shots were fired off the LCT’s; they had to establish the beach head.
D-Day was the beginning of the end for the German army. The battle didn’t start well for the Allies, and it wasn’t easy to take the beach. Through a fierce battle, the allied troops did take the beach, then the coastal towns, and eventually they liberated France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was a battle that is still remembered today. It took planning, and it took men and women who were willing to risk their lives. It came at a great sacrifice, but the battle needed to be won.
Today we are in a similar battle. It is not fought with tanks, artillery guns and planes. It is actually a battle that has gone on from the beginning of time. It is a battle for the hearts and souls of men and women.
While we don’t often think about it, we are all soldiers of the cross. Today, many think we are losing the battle, but that is not true. We are winning the battle; people around the globe are hearing the message, and they are putting on God’s armour as described by Paul in Ephesians 6. D-Day for us is every day. The question each of us has to answer is this: Are we willing to get into the boat and fight the battle that needs to be fought?
When my dad got into that LCT, I have to wonder what he was thinking. He had to know that he was taking a great risk; he had to know that this could be his last day, but he summoned the courage and got into the LCT and took the risk.
What stops us from sharing with our neighbours, our coworkers, our friends? Are we willing to put everything on the line like those soldiers did 75 years ago? They fought to win freedom from the tyranny of Hitler and his army; as soldiers of the Lord’s army, will we fight to free the world from the tyranny of evil, who seeks to rule the world as Hitler did?
If you are willing to play your part in the battle, read Ephesians 6. It will not only tell you how to prepare to fight the war, it will also tell you clearly who we are fighting the battle with today. And praise the Lord! We can be encouraged as we fight because we know the Lord has already won the battle!