If it had not been for Gene Hunsberger, no service men or women would have received copies of Strength for Service to God and Country after 1953.
Hunsberger, a corpsman in the U.S. Navy, received a copy of Strength for Service to God and Country while serving in World War II.
He not only read daily devotions for his own spiritual enrichment, but when words failed him, he would read sections of the book to sailors after attending to their wounds. He kept the book during his service in Korea.
Following his discharge, Gene read the book to his Scout troop at meetings and camp outs.
In his later years, he carried the book in his breast pocket to read to folks in the hospital as a volunteer guild member. It was Gene’s daily reading of the devotional that led his grandson, Evan to begin the effort to republish the volume.
Don Hunsberger, son of Gene and father of Evan, tells a story that illustrates the kind of person his father was.
“After serving in Korea, Dad became a science teacher at Boone Grove High School in Valparaiso, Ind. He also taught evening classes.
“One very warm evening an energetic student opened a refrigerator in the chemistry lab which had a plainly visible sign on it reading ‘Do NOT Open!’
“He took out one of six test tubes and called out, ‘Hey, Mr. Hunsberger, what’s this stuff in the tubes?’
“The tube contained white phosphorus, which ignites at 92 degrees.
“Dad vaulted over the top of the lab table and grabbed the flask from the student, jamming his hand into the cooler and closing the door on his own forearm. If he closed the door, its lock would explode all six vials.
“The ignition of the vials burned the skin off Dad’s hand, wrist, and forearm. He saved his hand only by dipping it into a pail of water. Even so, he endured the agony of third degree burns over his entire hand, along with dozens of skin transplants, surgeries, and therapy sessions over the many months.
“The young man later visited Dad while he was recovering.
“’Mr. Hunsberger, I just, I want to, I’m so so sorry,’ he stammered. ‘The door. I shouldn’t have. I’m so sorry…’
‘My dad was the graduate of two bloody wars where he worked with maimed Marines on a daily basis and faced the consequences of stupid mistakes for men and boys alike.
“Dad raised his left hand, uninjured by the blast of flaming Phosphorus, and looked at his watch.
“’Are we about finished with this?’ he calmly asked the young man.
The question stunned the youth. ‘What?’ he responded.
“This whining,” Dad explained,” I don’t have any time for whining. it’s a waste of time. But I have all the time in the world to help you to learn enough to reach your potential as a doctor or a teacher or a scientist. And remember this, if you remember nothing else:”
Dad lifted his burned and bandaged hand, its gauze seeping pink plasma and spotted with blood, before the face of the farm boy.
“’Look at this, son. Look at it hard. And remember that this is the price I have paid for your education. This is my sacrifice for your future. And if you ever think of missing a class or skipping a lab, whether in college or in medical or veterinary school, this hand will haunt you even if I have already gone to my reward on the other side. You need to believe me, boy, because I promise you this with all my heart and soul. Do you understand me, son?’”
The young man’s mouth dropped and his eyes bulged wide. ‘Yes, sir, I do.’”