Author: Glenn O'Connor - MPACT Men’s Ministries
January 20, 2016. As I walked forward, I told myself, “Glenn, this is your pillbox, this is your pillbox, this is your pillbox...”. I was facing one of the most difficult and emotionally challenging tasks I’ve ever encountered. I was walking to the podium to deliver the eulogy for my father, Mike O’Connor. The mix of emotions I was feeling was so overwhelming I didn’t know if I could do this. How could I possibly and sufficiently honor a man like my father in the woefully inadequate length of time I had?
My father was born in Honduras in 1923 to a full-blooded Mayan mother and his father from Texas. After his father passed away when he was eleven. His younger brother had died in a swimming accident, his mother, who had no husband, no job, and couldn’t speak English, brought my Dad and three sisters to the US. His goal was to give them a better life, a sacrifice, the benefits of which I still benefit today.
Dad volunteered for the US Navy in WW2 even though (as the only surviving male in his family) he didn’t have to. He was assigned to drive a landing craft (aka Higgins boat) and participated in 7 battles in the Pacific Theater.
During one of these battles, Dad told me that when he was approaching the beach with a full payload of 36 soldiers and supplies. He saw a Japanese ‘pillbox’ (a bunker, usually built of reinforced concrete and heavily armed) directly in front of him. In these situations, it isn’t possible to avoid the pillbox by turning away and landing on a “safer” section of the beach. Each boat has a designated “lane” and must deposit its cargo (men, supplies, vehicles, etc.) on its assigned sector of the beach. Dad told me that when he saw that pillbox, he was so scared, “I felt like my blood was literally boiling.” I asked him, “Dad, what did you do?”. With the humility that so defined my father (and made him an even greater hero in my eyes), he simply said, “I had to keep going,” and, so he did.
When he got to the beach, he saw that the pillbox wasn’t occupied by any Japanese soldiers; of course, no one knew until they landed on that beach. I realize now that my father spent his whole life confronting “pillboxes,” and God always gave him the same inner strength to overcome his fear and persevere. I think my Dad was far too humble to realize that he was teaching me such a valuable lesson by telling me that story. It’s one of the countless lessons I learned from him, and I cherish every one of them. It enabled me to face my pillbox, walk to that podium and start by saying, “I believe that the greatest teachers are the ones who teach you even when you don’t know they’re doing it...”
For most of my life, I didn’t understand how my father came to have such gentle strength. He was never one to lecture or preach. It was after I came to know Christ that I realized the source of his power. My Dad’s faith was so deep that he simply lived out countless quiet sermons from which I could draw the love. Courage and strength of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit I have needed whenever I’m facing my own “pillboxes.” You may be facing your own “pillbox” today. If you are, be encouraged to know that the same loving, almighty God that guided my Dad safely through his battles is waiting to help you through yours. Just as He did with my father, He will place strong brothers alongside you to help you fight and win the victory. All you have to do is call on him; know who you are in Him, and let Him endure those “pillbox” moments with you.
He’s never lost a single battle, and yours won’t be the first!
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. -Colossians 3:12