A Tribute to an American Hero and a Friend

Several months ago an article appeared in the Pensacola News Journal about a gentleman whose plane, a B-24 Liberator, was shot down over theNorth Seain World War II. The Plane had been assaulted by German anti-aircraft guns and fell from the sky at 22,000 feet. After reading about this incredible story I wanted to learn more about this individual’s service and so I invited him to lunch. The next few months, until his sudden passing, led to a very special relationship. It is a privilege to share a little about the life and the service of my friend, Jack Raiser.

As pilot, Mr. Raiser led missions intoGermanydropping bombs on air bases and other critical locations but on June 23, 1944 his plane came under attack upon its return toEnglandand an explosion took the lives of the six gentlemen serving alongside. B-24’s are of course large aircrafts but Jack was able to eject although a piece of metal tore through his left arm (he later reflected that the injuries and bleeding likely saved his life given the freezing conditions of the North Sea.)

Mr. Raiser was recovered by a German submarine several hours later and a sailors first words to him in German was to the effect that he would soon be dead. After receiving treatment, Jack spent months in a German prison camp where he was interrogated regularly by soldiers who wanted to know where the Allied Forces would be bombing next and how many bombs his planes had the capacity to carry. Something that has always amazed me is the ease with which Jack looked back on his experiences as a prisoner of war. I remember him with a huge smile on his face as he said “you know, they didn’t even make me a birthday cake for my 21st birthday.”

In October 2011, Covenant Hospice staff and volunteers had an opportunity to learn about Mr. Raiser’s service and he said it was important for him to tell his story because of those six men who died adding “the heroes are the ones under the white crosses.” Mr. Raiser was certainly a hero to me as an individual whom I had a great deal of respect for both as a friend, a gentleman, and an individual who faithfully served our country. My friends’ service is a perfect example of the valor and courage shown by all who have served in uniform and those who serve today for the freedoms we enjoy in this country.

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