Dana Keeton told the story in The Democratic Union newspaper of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee:
The sun had just risen on a hot August day in 1944 in the small village of Plelo in German-occupied France.
The 15-year-old boy did not know why he and the other citizens of Plelo had been lined up in front of a firing squad in the middle of the town square.
Perhaps they were being punished for harboring a unit of Marquisards, the French underground fighters.
Perhaps they were going to be executed just to satisfy the blood lust of the German commanding officer who, the evening before, had routed the small group of Marquisard troops.
All the boy knew was that he was about to die.
As he stood before the firing squad, he remembered the carefree days of his early childhood before the war, roaming the green fields of the French countryside.
He thought about all he would miss by never growing up.
Most of all, he was terrified of dying. “How will the bullets feel ripping through my body?” he wondered. He hoped no one would hear the whimpering coming from deep in his throat every time he exhaled.
Suddenly the boy heard the sound of exploding mortar shells beyond the limits of his little village. The roar of quickly rolling tanks could be heard.
The Germans were forced to abandon the firing squad and face the small unit of U.S. tanks with twenty GI’s led by Bob Hamsley, a corporal in Patton’s Third Army. A Marquisard captain had asked Hamsley for help.
After three hours, fifty Nazis were dead and the other fifty captured.
In 1990 the town of Plelo honored Bob Hamsley on the very spot where dozens of the town’s citizens would have died if not for him.
The Frenchman who initiated the search for Hamsley, and organized the ceremony honoring him, was the former mayor of Plelo – that same 15-year-old boy. He had made up his mind to find the man who saved his life so many years ago and to honor him.
It’s hard to forget someone who has saved you, delivered you, given you back your very life again.
Sadly, many do.
Christ has saved us from things infinitely worse than a firing squad. Only hearts that by grace remember can be infinitely more thankful.