Forged in Fire: The Saga of Hershey and Joe

By Andy Meverden, Chaplain, Colonel USA, Retired, Director of Chaplaincy

The week before Thanksgiving, I received an email notifying me of the death of Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Annello, US Army Retired, Korean war POW and Silver Star awardee. Joe lived in the Denver area where I met him several times. Shortly after the email, a friend of Joe’s family called asking if I would be available to officiate his military burial honors.  The next day I visited Joe’s Korean-born wife, Joan, along with their good friend, Jeff, a Gold Star father who lost his Green Beret son in Afghanistan.  I listened to the circumstances of Joe’s death and discussed the modified full honors the military would provide due to Joe’s valor award (Silver Star), along with my role as chaplain.  As we talked, I realized that this was going to be a “big deal.”  All burials are, but this one, due to Joe’s heroic wartime experience would be unique.

The book “Forged in Fire: The Saga of Hershey and Joe,” tells about two men; Hershey, a Japanese-American Army corporal and WW2 Veteran and Joe, an Italian-American sergeant, who exhibited amazing valor and self-sacrifice while fighting an overwhelming force of Communist Chinese soldiers during a difficult night attack on their positions. Both men led their squads in repelling wave after wave of enemy soldiers until their ammunition ran out.  Then Joe and Hershey ordered their squads to retreat with the wounded while they themselves covered their withdrawal with machine guns, rifles and grenades.

Joe and Hershey were captured and ended up in the same group of prisoners. When directed to march into North Korea, Joe was so badly injured, his buddy, Hershey carried him ten miles.  Falling behind, Hershey was ordered at gunpoint by his captors to leave Joe in a ditch to die.  After Joe’s amazing rescue by U.S. Army tanks, and Hershey’s release after a nine-month captivity in North Korea (for which he received the Medal of Honor), the two returned to the U.S.  There they reunited and remained friends for over sixty years.  I strongly recommend the book.  It’s an easy read but it will have you on the edge of your seat!

Back to the burial: Wednesday, November 21, 1:30 p.m., Fort Logan National Cemetery, Shelter B, Joe arrived in a flag-draped casket carried on an open carriage pulled by two draft horses, followed by a rider-less horse with caparisoned boots (turned backwards). Six U.S. Army Soldiers of the 4th Engineers of Ft. Carson carried Joe into the shelter.  I welcomed the attendees, prayed prayers of comfort and committal, interspersed with readings from John’s Gospel, reviewed Joe’s service record, read his Silver Star Citation and prepared the group for military honors (Volleys, Taps, Folding and Presentation of the U.S. flag).  The Honor Bell tolled seven-times, with life-long friend and wartime buddy Cpl. Hershey Miyamura (MOH) assisting, followed by Amazing Grace played by a piper.  In my remarks I shared Jesus’ words: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NAS). Several loud “Amens!” echoed in reply. The loudest from a Medal of Honor recipient.

Storyboard with photos of the solemn event:

 

For more stories about and by CBAmerica chaplains, visit www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. For information on endorsement for chaplaincy, military and civilian, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy, at chapandy@cbmerica.org.

 

Chaplains at War: Training Ukrainian Volunteer Chaplains

By Chaplain Randy Brandt, US Army, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, and Andy Meverden

 

Director of Chaplaincy, Andy Meverden, writes: “War is hell on earth. The human cost includes not only the physical injury, and death of combatants, but also the lingering impact of its related emotional and spiritual trauma on returning warfighters, their families and loved ones. The current conflict between Russia and the Ukraine is producing many shattered lives, on the front lines and back at home. Part of the support the US provides our Ukrainian allies includes semi-official and volunteer training of chaplains. Once again, I was surprised by the recent report of one of our senior chaplains.”

Chaplain Brandt reports:

“I had the privilege of being the guest speaker for a group of 9 Ukrainian Military Chaplains back in August. What a joy it was to meet with and encourage these men, all of whom are volunteers (not paid military chaplains like we have in our Army) who choose to go to the front lines and serve the Soldiers on the battlefield because of a calling from God and a love of the Lord that compels them.

One of the guys was a Spetsnaz* soldier who fought in Afghanistan for the Russians and then became a special operations helicopter pilot prior to coming to the Lord and giving that all up to do the work of the ministry for the Lord in Ukraine. I heard lots of neat stories of service and sacrifice – some painful stories as well. Some of these men have lost family members during the invasion by Russian backed separatists in Donbas and Luhansk.

We had great fellowship and a chance to share testimonies of the great things God was doing in our lives and then I had the privilege to talk to them (through an interpreter) about Moral Injury and how the Local Ukrainian Churches can support and minister to the Soldiers and their families as they come back from war. We were hosted by a Ukrainian Christian Church and community near Seattle and were able to break bread with a traditional Ukrainian meal before coming back to JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) and providing a guided tour of our base museum and chapels.”

Chaplain Brandt asks prayer for:

  • Our daughters, Sarah and Rebecca are both needing to raise more support for their missionary endeavors.
  • Julie has had some on-going health issues.
  • I am starting up a new Bible study for our building here at JBLM; several hundred people work in this building and I’m hoping to touch a few.

 

Andy Meverden adds:

“Prior to the end of the age, Jesus said there would be many precursor signs, including “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). No matter what is going on around us, our mission is the same, and that mission is what Jesus says is a reliable predictor of the end times, “And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

Join me in praying for the Brandt family concerns and ministry, including continued, effective Gospel ministry by Chaplain Brandt, and our other 195 chaplains, military and civilian. Pray especially for those military chaplains deployed in support of combat operations in various locations, along with these volunteer Ukrainian chaplains sent by their local churches to minister on their front lines of conflict.”

 

Director’s Note: *Spetsnaz is an umbrella term for special forces in Russian.

For more stories of and by CBAmerica chaplains serving across the US and around the world, got to www.cbameria.org/chaplaincy. For an informational brochure on endorsement for chaplaincy under CBAmerica, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.