My grandfather is one of my heroes. Sergeant Julius Oser of U.S. Army 2nd Armored Division received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart after enlisting in the Army during the height of World War II. He was a quiet, humble, hardworking man with a deep love for his family and country. Some of my most cherished memories are of my father telling me his father’s war stories. I never met my grandfather; he passed nearly a decade before my birth.
Although I did not meet him, my desire to know him was intense. I listened attentively to my father’s retelling of his stories. I began to research the troop movement of the 2nd Armored Division. I continue to go out of my way to read whatever I can to help me get a glimpse of his story. As I began to meet him, I began to know my own story.
The more I dug, the more I learned. I learned of amazing bravery in the face of terrible evil. I learned of embarrassing lapses of judgment, ethics, and morality. I learned of great strategic decisions that changed the course of battles. I learned of wrongdoings that caused pain and heartaches that would hound him the rest of his life.
My grandfather was not perfect and he was not an imaginary comic book superhero, who never fails. He was a man with faults and with warts. He was a man who faced extraordinary times with extraordinary conviction, heart, and bravery. He is one of my heroes, and I have learned that in knowing his story, I have to embrace his journey of growth.
All history is about growth whether it is the history of Christianity, the history of our country, or the history of toothpaste. It starts with a seed or a thought and then grows through time and hardship to what it is today. In the study of history, you get a glimpse of the factors that shaped the “tree” to be what you see today.
One of the thrills of working with Christian History Magazine has been learning the stories of great men and women who have gone before, and embracing their journey from heathen to hero, from sinner to saint, and from Christ denier to martyr for the cause of Christ. My reaction to their stories has gone from “That guy was amazing, I could never …” to “If he could, I can ….”
So, don’t sanitize history. Don’t be afraid to learn of the faults of your heroes, family members, and leaders. As those who have gone before us learned from their defeats, let us learn. As the saying goes, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Matthew Oser is a homeschooling father of four (Brendan 8, Dylan 6, Caylee 4, and Madison 1). He is heavily involved in the teaching ministries of his church and is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Vision Video and its sister company Christian History Institute. His favorite place to be is strolling down the streets of Colonial Williamsburg with his wife and kids. Christian History Magazine is available as a free subscription via www.ChristianHistoryMagazine.org