by Bill Bonner

Time had done its work on the old parachutists.

The little church in Bourg Archambault was festooned with three parachutes for the occasion.  A white one was strung up like a tent over the altar.  A red one hung over the window on the north side.  Against the south side was a blue one.

And there, in the right hand seats, were the old ‘paras’ themselves…dressed in their black jackets, with all of their war medals …some so laden down with medals that they stooped and looked like they might pitch forward at any moment.  Some were in their ’40s and ’50s…others in their ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.  Included among them were one or two who had parachuted behind German lines in 1944.

Yesterday, the mass was dedicated to the paratroopers from the area.  There must have been about 30 of them in attendance.  Up in the front of the church, two rows of old troopers flanked the priest, each holding what we took for the regimental colors.  They lowered the standards as the priest consecrated the bread and wine…they raised them at the Alleluia…while their comrades in arms sat in their seats, many looking as though they had not been in church for a very long time.

Our fellow choir members, the two Pierres, are both veterans of the French paratroopers.  They had organized the ceremony to note the passing of one of their fellows, a Colonel Ambert, who died a few months ago.

“We all owe a lot to these brave men,” said the priest in his sermon.  “Because they jump out of airplanes for us.  They jump out into the air trusting in their thin cords and thin parachutes.  But it takes more than faith in ropes and fabric to be a paratrooper.  It takes faith in God…a God who protects…who directs…and who causes men to risk their lives in order to build a better world.

“Yes, you don’t get anywhere in life without taking risks.  Christ himself risked his life so that we would have life and have it more abundantly.  He knew he was going to His death.  But he had to do it…because it was the right thing.

“And that’s what these paratroopers whom we honor today have done.  They leapt into the great void…into the air…trusting in God…and doing what they had to do to help build a better world.”

After the service, a small brass band worked itself up.  The old paras grabbed their standards…and to the steady beat of a little girl drummer…filed down the road, out of the town, and over to the cemetery.  They marched along, solemnly, each man wearing his beret proudly, with the local cows looking on.

We wondered how normal life must be for such men.  After jumping into the inferno at Dien Bien Phu or in the midst of a German-occupied France, how were they ever able to recapture the thrill…the sense of desperate adventure…the camaraderie of men under enemy fire?  Raising cattle or fixing plumbing must have been a let down.

When we arrived at the cemetery, once again, the flags were held high.  A moment of silence was called for…following a brief reminder of who and what we were supposed to be honoring.  Then, a wreath was laid at the tomb of the fallen colonel…the band struck up the Marseillaise…and every man who had done his duty stood at attention and raised his right hand in salute.

Editor’s Note: Bill Bonner is the founder and editor of The Daily Reckoning. He is also the author, with Addison Wiggin, of The Wall Street Journal best seller Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of the 21st Century (John Wiley & Sons).

In Bonner and Wiggin’s follow-up book, Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis, they wield their sardonic brand of humor to expose the nation for what it really is – an empire built on delusions. Daily Reckoning readers can buy their copy of Empire of Debt at a discount – just click on the link below:

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