Remembering Arie York On June 6th Every Year

“This story shall the good man teach his son.” -Henry V, Act IV, Scene III

Arie York would have been 98 years old this year. I’m glad for his sake that he is in Heaven now with our Savior Jesus Christ and all His Saints, but I miss him like I miss my own father. Arie was my best friend the last ten years of his life.

Arie was born in 1924 to a hard man and his quiet, gentle wife on a hardscrabble farm in West Texas just in time to experience the Dust Bowl when he was a boy that chased his family off their land by the time he was a teenager and out west where his family earned a subsistence living as itinerate laborers in California, a true life “Grapes of Wrath” story.

When Arie was in his late teens, he joined the Army during World War II and volunteered to become a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. Against his commanding officer’s orders, Arie married an unloving woman just before he shipped off to Europe, but against the odds and his officer’s predictions, he returned from war to rejoin his bride and start their family.

But post-traumatic stress and the valium prescribed by the Veterans’ Administration, as well as the booze with which he washed down his pills, soon ruined the York family but not before three children, two sons and a daughter were born in quick succession. When his daughter was only ten, she watched her father walk out the front door late one night, somehow knowing that she’d probably never see him again.

Arie worked at odd jobs between bouts of alcoholism-induced mishaps and mistakes for the next forty years across the southwest. Ten years before I eventually met him, he was a prospector in the hills outside of Yuma, Arizona, never finding the gold he sought but ultimately returning to the God he’d first met as a boy in West Texas.

To his dying day, Arie credited the long ago prayers of his beloved grandmother who had first introduced him to Jesus Christ for saving him from the ravages of war and the hell he experienced thereafter. After God found him out in the desert back in the mid 1980s, Arie gave up the booze and pills and never again touched either one again the rest of his life.

In 1994, our teenaged son, John, and I went to see the movie, “Saving Private Ryan.” When we walked out of the theatre that afternoon, I was so filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I said out loud a prayer asking God to let me find one of those men who had been at Normandy when they were only about my son’s age during the Second World War so that I could personally thank him, knowing full well that all those men were dying or now dead like my own father who had been a veteran of three different wars and who had died three years before in 1991.

Before the day was done, I’d forgotten that prayer I’d prayed . . . but God didn’t.

At church the next morning, a little, white-haired man was sitting in a back pew by himself. My son and I went over and introduced ourselves to him. He seemed quiet and gentle and kind. He said his name was Arie York. Making small talk, I recounted how my son and I had just the day before seen the new movie about the Allied landing at Normandy during World War II. Arie softly said, “I was there.” “At the movies?” I asked. And Arie said, “No, at Normandy.” All of a sudden, I remembered the prayer I’d prayed when leaving the theatre, and I took Arie’s hand and squeezed it firmly, as I told him from my heart, “Thank you!” Arie and I became fast friends for the rest of his life from that moment on.

In some ways Arie assumed the role of my beloved father who I had lost, and our family became for Arie York the family he had lost years before.

Arie told me something sometime after we’d gotten to know one another better that I still find hard to believe. He told me that when he came home from Europe that he never remembered anyone ever telling him, “Thank you.” Arie said that when I finally did all those years later, that a lingering wound from that horrific war had finally healed inside of him. When Arie told me that, I thanked him again, and I told God in my heart, “Thank you, Lord Jesus! Thank you!”

You never know what God will do with a stray prayer. We forget probably most every one we pray . . . but the Bible tells us that Our Father in Heaven treasures our every single prayer.

Amazing grace!

“Thank YOU, Arie!”

4 responses to “Remembering Arie York On June 6th Every Year”

  1. lorisroeleveld Avatar

    Powerful story! Love it!

    Lori Stanley Roeleveld Disturber of Hobbits

    1. YOU would have LOVED Arie, Lori . . . and he would have LOVED you. I can’t hardly wait to introduce you two, although I’m not in too big of a hurry to do so!

  2. Joe’s Email Avatar
    Joe’s Email

    Nice story for today’s readers…Ed Schiltz and Shelly’s uncle Eugene we’re both the d day landing…neither wanted to talk about it.

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Arie just said that the war was “madness.” He was in all the battles from Normandy to The Battle of the Bulge to Germany’s surrender. He said that he was glad to have gone through it all for the young people like Julia and John.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: