Ken’s mother was working in the kitchen when she heard a knock on the door. She wiped her hands on her apron, headed to the front room, and turned the knob. There on the porch were two smartly-dressed Army officers. The visit every mother dreaded.
Ella’s hands flew to her mouth to muffle the scream. She barely heard the words. “… son … killed in action … defending … service … sorry …”
Her knees gave way and she crumpled to the floor, sobbing.
Ken was my dad’s younger brother, one of six children. Raised in Ohio, he was known to get in trouble once in a while. But then, who can survive childhood and adolescence without pushing the boundaries and paying for it?
Ella never gave up praying God would take hold of Ken’s life and heart.
Like so many other teenagers in the early 1940’s, Ken was drafted to serve in the Army. He was deployed to France. While there, he typed this letter:
I have some wonderful news for you. Tonight, as I was lying in my foxhole, I received what is termed “the call.” It came to me while I was lying there thinking over some hymns and Bible verses. It suddenly occurred to me that God was saying, “Go ye unto all the world and preach the Gospel to every nation, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Ghost.” That is what I want to do now.
I pray that God will bring this war to a swift close, so that I can come home, get a good temporary job, go to night school & get the rest of my high school credits, go to Bible College, & become one of His faithful ministers of the Gospel. I feel that God has told me personally to become one of his ministers, & I shall.
I have a sensation in my heart which I cannot fully describe, except that I realize now, more than ever before, the Grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God, & the communion & fellowship of the Holy Spirit. I am so happy and relieved that I just can’t express in this letter just how I feel.
I have done many things which were wrong in God’s sight, but I swear by His Holy word, that I am thru with such things, & that with His help I shall conquer all the Devil’s threats. Pray for me? Won’t you, Mom? God bless you, dear.
Lots of love & kisses-
The letter was written and mailed on July 19, 1944. Ken died the next day in battle. His note was delivered to his mother a week after the “official” visit.
God had finally gotten hold of him, as she had prayed for years. At last he was willing to do whatever God had planned for him – even die.
Ella later received another letter:
In grateful memory of Private Kenneth A. Horn, who died in the service of his country in the European Area, July 20, 1944.
He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live. And grow. And increase its blessings.
Freedom lives. And through it, he lives – in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America
Ken’s headstone is next to his parents’ graves in Ohio, but his body is buried in a battlefield in France with hundreds of others. Rest in peace, Uncle Ken.
Thank you for your willingness to serve.