Fear is real. Otherwise intelligent people can become easily confused by fear. Fear is an emotion that can facilitate the worst of inhumanity. The antidote for fear and confusion is not a sheltered, ignorant existence of irrational obedience. What can break us free from fear and confusion? First, the ability to think critically, which requires both logic and study. Second, courage, which is far more than taking risks. Third, an adherence to a true faith. “Cops ask questions,” and cops recognize examples of clear-headed, acts of courage founded on higher principles when they see them. Here, on Veterans Day, we provide a message of inspiration in the actions of a World War II soldier. He was not confused. Even while captured by the enemy, he did not surrender to fear. He provided moral clarity. He led.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
With this posting, Secure 1776 seeks to honor World War II veteran, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds. We seek to highlight his clarity, faith and courage. Today, there are many challenges to individual liberty, the rule of law, and public safety. We seek as well to use the powerul example that Master Sergeant Edmonds provided to encourage others. To do that well, we need to provide key context. As noted by evangelist Billy Graham: “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
The Power of Division
Regular readers of Secure 1776 will take note that division is a key element within what Thomas Lemmer has defined as tragedy-free policing. In his article, “Tragedy-Free Policing or Else: The Need for Critical Thinking,“ Lemmer instructed that “tragedy-free policing” is a dangerous worldview that holds the police should never take any actions that could cause harm, their actions should never use any force, and the police must act without ever making a mistake.
Anti-police activists have coupled an “or else” to the “tragedy-free policing” worldview. In so doing they created an unattainable policing standard. With this “standard,” whenever the police are involved in an incident that has a tragic outcome, rage, violent protests, and looting are then falsely “justified.” In addition to the “justified” lawlessness, fear is created. Fear within the community. Fear within the policing profession. The police are divided most from the communities most in need of the police. Getting past the fear is essential to restore public safety.
Tragedy and Evil
Tragedy can be devastating. But, it is important to note as well that there is a difference between tragedy and evil. Clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson has observed that evil is differentiated from tragedy by evil’s “lack of necessity and its volunteerism.” Pain and suffering are a part of every life. Illness. Accidents. Unintended consequences. Of course, some suffer far more than others. But pain and suffering come to all, and many people fall victim to tragedy. As noted by Peterson, evil is worse. Evil brings pain and suffering that did not have to occur and was by deliberate choice. In world history, the evils of the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler, and the other totalitarian states of the 20th Century, are nearly beyond comprehension.
Now and Then
We live in times of an advancing grievance culture determined to be obsessed about self. Such drives a doctrine of division and seeks to corrupt and ignore history. For most of America’s younger generations, World War II is an obscure point of ancient history having no meaning to them. They do not see the impact of the war, nor due they truly comprehend the scale and intensity of the suffering it caused. Too many today are in need of “safe spaces.” They notify the world how their salad looks, and “tragedy” occurs whenever they do not receive instant gratification. Nazi Germany started World War II with its invasion of Poland in 1939. Germany’s Adolph Hitler drew upon the fears of his nation. Within Germany, he created divisions. He particularly targeted people of Jewish descent. He created confusion, and then solutions. Among the solutions, world domination, and the elimination of the Jewish people.
Quoting from the Holocaust Encyclopedia: “From 1933 to 1945, Nazi Germany carried out a campaign to ‘cleanse’ German society of individuals viewed as biological threats to the nation’s ‘health.’ The Nazis enlisted the help of physicians and medically trained geneticists, psychiatrists, and anthropologists to develop racial health policies. These policies began with the mass sterilization of many people in hospitals and other institutions and ended with the near annihilation of European Jewry.”
The Nazi regime “exterminated” nearly six million Jews. During the course of the war, between the genocide, civilian war casualties, and the deaths of combatant military personnel, more than 72 million people perished.
Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds
Roddie Edmonds was born in 1919 in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was 22 years old when America formerly entered the war, following the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. By the time of that attack, Edmonds was already serving in the U.S. Army, having enlisted in March 1941.
Edmonds initially served as a infantry trainer, before he was assigned to the 106th Infantry Division. In 1944, his unit was sent to Ardennes Forest in Belgium. Despite the relative closeness of the forest to Germany, the area was known as the “ghost front,” and it was not initially a focus of combat. Such did not remain the case. In December 1944, in the effort to repel the allied advance in Europe, the Germans launched a major offensive in that area. Using more than 30 divisions, and 200,000 troops, the Germans broke through the American lines. The assault became known as the “Battle of the Bulge.” The battle there became one of the largest of the war.
The German advance was fierce, and overwhelmed the American defenses. Thousands of American soldiers were wounded, killed, or captured. Cut off from reinforcements, nearly out of food and ammunition, Edmonds was among the approximately 7,000 Americans captured. Those captured were forced marched deep into enemy territory, without food and in bitter winter conditions. Many died or were executed on the march. The now prisoners of war (POW) were then transported by boxcar into Germany. As a non-commissioned officer, Edmonds was ultimately held prisoner in Stalag IX-A, a POW camp in Ziegenhain, Germany.
Fear is a Danger, Courage is a Choice
Upon his arrival, and with the arrival of the other non-commissioned officers of the 106th Infantry, Master Sergeant Edmonds was the ranking POW. As such, leadership responsibility fell first on him. On 27 January 1945, Roddie Edmonds would lead. He would inspire. He would help hundreds of American Christian servicemen come to the defense of 200 Jewish-American servicemen. He would save lives. He would maintain his faith, as he stared evil directly in its face.
On 26 January 1945, the Nazis running the prison camp had given an ominous order. The following morning all the American servicemen of Jewish descent were to be assembled – alone. They were to be separated from their non-Jewish brothers. Separation had been the first step in the Nazis process to humiliate, enslave, torture, and murder. Fear is a weapon of confusion. It weakens. It divides. During the night, M/Sgt. Edmonds led. He directed that in the morning, every American POW would stand together. They would all assemble, Jew and Gentile together as Americans all. Getting past the fear, required clarity, courage and faith.
A Gun to Your Head
Often we hear someone say to another who has made the wrong choice: “No one held a gun to your head.” The gun in the often repeated line is figurative, but fear is still at its center. Fear of losing a job. Fear of loss of status. Fear of loss of friendship. “Do as you are told. Comply, or suffer pain.” Such pressures create confusion. They seek to divide us from others, and from our beliefs. Such seeks to break the individual. Such is where evil lurks.
But, what if the gun is literally put to your head? If you are being robbed of a material possession, perhaps you will comply to get past the moment. But, what if the stakes are higher, and so too the risks? M/Sgt. Edmonds answered that question on 27 January 1945. Even while a prisoner of war, Edmonds did not surrender his core beliefs. He did not surrender to fear. He remained clear in mind and in his purpose. His response stiffened the spines of others then. Hopefully, his response stiffens the spines of others still today.
M/Sgt. Edmonds survived that day, as well as his continued time as a POW. He survived the war, and he went on to serve in the Korean War. He then came home, and he focused on raising a family. Like most veterans, he spoke little about his wartime experiences. He spoke not at all about his actions – standing in a POW camp – staring directly in the face of evil. Fortunately, others who were there, and returned safely home, did speak about the leadership and courage of M/Sgt. Edmonds.
Righteous Among the Nations
The State of Israel has continued to focus on ensuring that the horrors of the Holocaust, a tyranny of fear, are remembered. They continue to honor those who stood in defiance of evil. The Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center is located in Jerusalem, Israel. The center manages a program known as “The Righteous Among the Nations.” The designation is conferred only upon those “who took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust.” Based upon the direct witness testimony of Lester Tanner and Paul Stern, both Jewish non-commissioned officers who served under Roddie Edmonds, Yad Vashem learned of the events in Stalag IX-A. On February 10, 2015, Yad Vashem formally recognized Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds as being “Righteous Among the Nations.”
We Salute Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds
On this Veteran’s Day, 70 years after the events in Stalag IX-A, we salute Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds. We draw inspiration from his courage, devotion to his faith, and inspiring leadership.
Confusion is a weapon of fear. We live in new times that challenge us. To break free of fear and confusion, we cannot surrender. We must think critically. We must have courage. We must stay true to our faith. We must stand in defiance of totalitarianism and evil.
[Note: If you came to this post from the link in our 2022 Veteran’s Day post you can return to where you left off here.]
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