The Healing Power of an Apology for a Wronged World War II Vet

Whenever Veteran’s Day draws near, I am reminded of the story of Samuel Snow who believed an apology was important enough to wait more than six decades to receive one. In July of 2008, a then 84-year-old Snow traveled across the nation to accept a formal apology and an honorable discharge from the United States Army. According to media reports just hours later, the World War II veteran from Leesburg, Florida, died in a Seattle hospital.

“My dad has been standing in formation all these years, waiting to have his name cleared. With the Army’s honorable discharge, he was at ease…and he went home,” said Ray Snow, son of the late soldier in a released statement after his father’s death.

On American Soil In 1944, Samuel Snow was one of twenty-eight black soldiers wrongly convicted of rioting charges resulting in the death of an Italian prisoner of war. In his book, On American Soil: How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II, author Jack Hamann pointed to “serious flaws” in the prosecution of the case. According to Seattle Times staff reporter, Sandi Doughton, “Hamann championed the cause of the black GIs. His investigation cast suspicion on a white military policeman, now dead, as the prime suspect in the murder of the Italian soldier.”

After Snow’s conviction, he spent 15 months in a military prison and received a dishonorable discharge, which greatly altered his life opportunities. Upon his release, the African American soldier returned to a then segregated Leesburg, and his “dishonorable discharge” became a sort of “death sentence” according to Ray Snow. The senior Snow could only find work as a janitor or handyman following the scandal, but he was a man of deep faith who refused to grow bitter. Although his son who became an elementary teacher in Leesburg said that it became his father’s “mission” to obtain official documentation regarding his innocence.

This tragic tale points to the significance of an apology. Sadly, the ability to admit wrong in life’s lesser matters than the grievous offense Snow suffered has been radically altered by our progressively lawsuit happy world. To explain, blame seems to be readily pronounced in our society, despite motivation or intent in many situations. That’s why fear can keep an individual or organization from assuming responsibility for a mistake or error, because it could result in life-altering financial or professional consequences. Still, a sincere request for forgiveness can be an influential tool in mending any rift. Besides validating the offended party, it can also set the perpetrator free of the guilt that wrongdoing intended or unintended can create. Yet when the words, “I’m sorry,” are said, it appears to matter a great deal how they are delivered.

That’s why the method we use to apologize can contribute to whether the apology will5 Languages of Apology be accepted according to the classic book, The Five Languages of Apology. Co-authored by Dr. Gary Chapman who also wrote the New York Times bestseller, The Five Love Languages, the book’s cover explains that, “Sometimes, saying, ‘I’m sorry’ just isn’t enough.” Chapman and co-author Dr. Jennifer Thomas believe that there are people who have been wronged who need to hear the offender not only confess regret, but also accept responsibility for their actions. Along with accountability, there is the act of “making restitution” by asking, “What can I do to make it right?” This might also be necessary, if it is the injured individual’s language of apology according Chapman and Thomas.

For Snow, a 2002 verbal apology by an Army major general just wasn’t enough. That’s why the elderly man traveled from his Florida home to Seattle with his son in July 2008 to attend the ceremony honoring him and the 27 other falsely accused GIs posthumously, because all but one other soldier had died. Snow refused to let questionable health prevent him from making the historic trip. Unfortunately, the aged veteran was hospitalized in Seattle and unable to attend. His son went instead. Returning to his dad’s hospital room, Ray presented his father with the framed honorable discharge from the ceremony. Reports say the falsely convicted man held the official plaque in his arms, clutched it to his heart, and smiled. With his dignity finally restored, he died just hours later. Like every dedicated soldier with his mission accomplished, I’m hopeful that Samuel angel grave marker'Snow is now resting in peace enjoying a hero’s reward. But I wish I could extend the same gratitude to him that every military man or woman deserves to hear, “Thank you for your service!”

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

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Veteran’s Day: Did You Lose that Arm for Me?

Amputee soldierVeteran’s Day is upon us, since we celebrate this holiday on November 11th each year. Once again, I find myself at a loss to express my gratitude to those who served or are serving in the military. This gratitude is not new for me, because I grew up in a home with a veteran.  

My father is now in his eighties, but an old black and white photo of him as a young Army staff sergeant sits on an end table in his home reminiscent of his own service. It was his example that taught me this deep respect for the men and women of the military.

Twenty-year-old country singer, Scotty McCreery must have patriotic roots that run deep like mine. But honestly have you ever heard of a country artist who isn’t patriotic? Recently, I attended my first ever country concert featuring McCreery who was the Season 10 American Idol winner.  Besides old Idol fans like me and my hubby, McCreery had a following of screaming girls in cowboy boots and rhinestone belts singing along to his hit songs at Troy’s Hobart Arena last month. Personally, the price of the ticket was worth just hearing the performer’s touching tune, “The Dash.”

 Scotty McCreery

An already consummate musician, McCreery sat down on a stool and mesmerized the crowd with his lyrics about the true story of a young soldier who was deployed to Afghanistan and never returned to see his wife give birth to his first child, a little boy.

Thankfully, my own nephew, an Army private recently returned safely from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. While he was there I was constantly praying for huge angels to be around him. Sadly, I’m sure that the family of the young soldier McCreery wrote about was praying for the same thing.

While interviewing Lima’s Scott Young, WTGN’s general manager, I found out that as a teenager growing up in Windham, Ohio, he, too, prayed daily for his older brother who was serving in Vietnam. Although his brother returned unharmed, “The little town I was from, we lost five boys in Vietnam,” remembered the well-known radio personality. Young, who has been at WTGN Christian Radio for 35 years, will be featured in my Inspirations column in December’s Our Generation’s magazine.   

Like Scott Young’s brother who works in the same Windham area factory where their late father once did, there are countless veterans all around us. Those who served in combat action, and others who sacrificed to protect our freedom during calmer times. According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau almost 22 million Americans have been in the military. Of this number, 1.6 million are female veterans.

Sometimes, it’s not easy to tell who is a veteran. It can be the clerk at the gas station, the emergency room nurse, or a farmer in the field who once served our country. There are signs though, like a license plate holder, bumper sticker, or ball cap that boasts allegiance to a specific military branch. My father is one of those U.S. Army ball-cap guys.

Mum Festival 2013 002That’s why I wondered if the young man who I saw this fall at a community festival was a war veteran. He was wearing a military cap, except it was a camouflage hat without any lettering, so I wasn’t sure if he was military or just someone who liked camouflage.

The approximately twenty-something family man was tall and stood almost at attention in his khaki t-shirt. There was one unusual thing; he was minus an arm. He caught me staring at his missing appendage, and for just a moment he appeared embarrassed. I could tell he wasn’t the kind of individual who cared for sympathy, but it wasn’t sympathy I was feeling. Rather, I was obsessively wondering how he had lost that limb. Of course, he could have been in a factory or farming accident, but still I felt this visceral guilt in realizing that he might have lost it defending my freedom.

Since politeness, prevented me from asking, I didn’t get a chance to thank him, if he had been in combat. But how would you thank someone for giving up their arm in your defense anyway? That’s why I wrote this column to possibly express my gratitude to him and every courageous man and woman who have served or are serving to make sure our nation remains the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Thank you and Happy Veteran’s Day!

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. This column originally appeared in The Lima News, Sidney Daily News, and Troy Daily News. 

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