Thursday, August 31, 2017

The greatest fight of all: WWII veteran twin brothers honored for their service

MCALESTER—As nations around the globe clashed in devastating war, young men from each of those countries packed their duffle bags, kissed their loved ones goodbye and ran off to fight battles. World War Two (WWII) enlisted many teenagers in their armies. Among those young men were McAlester twin brothers, Claude

Claude and Clyde Stokes

and Clyde Stokes.

At age 19, the twins said goodbye to the family farm tractor and said hello to a U.S. WWII tank. Before leaving for war, their father wanted to be sure his boys would be together, despite the recent military order declaring all brothers must be separated in war to prevent significant family losses.

Mr. Stokes sat down and wrote a letter to then-U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, requesting special permission for his twin sons to serve side-by-side. To the Stokes family’s surprise, they received a signed letter granting this request.

This letter traveled with the twins throughout the war from the torn countryside of France to the crumbled cities of Italy. Brutal battles and intense fights were the price paid for many victories in the Stokes brothers’ military career.

One of those victories occurred on Sept. 13, 1943 in Salerno, Italy. The campaign brought them under heavy enemy fire from Nazi German soldiers. However, past the smoke of grenades and through the rain of artillery, the Stokes twins led their company to victory. By the end of the day, their company had taken out five enemy tanks, an armored half-track, a pill-box, an ammunition truck and captured 180 German infantrymen.

It was through such battles that Claude and Clyde earned great respect. Their service saved countless lives, American and others. It wasn’t until they returned home

The Stokes brothers stand in the far right side of the picture in front of their WWII tank, the Oklahoma Wildcat.

from WWII, however, that they faced the greatest fight of all—the fight for their souls.

Spiritual combat began in Claude as he wrestled with the pride of reasoning himself to be a “good enough man” to get into heaven. Eventually, after several conversations with his pastor, Claude surrendered the spiritual battle to the Lord who won the war at Calvary. That year, in 1947, he asked Christ to be his Savior and Lord. Claude’s entry into the Lord’s army was an all-in endeavor. Within months he became an ordained deacon and began to lead a Sunday School class.

Clyde observed his changed brother for quite some time before he came to a realization which is best recorded in Clyde’s own words at a mid-1950s Veteran’s Day address:

“Claude and I were never separated in WWII or in our lives at that time. That worried me as I began thinking. Claude was going to Heaven, and I was going to Hell. It took a letter from U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to keep us together during the war, but it took God’s Son and my surrender to keep us together for eternity.”

After both brothers surrendered to the Lord, their faith became comparable to that of their service in the U.S. Army. Their dedication and urgency aided them in their pursuit to best glorify God.

Eph. 6:12 perfectly describes their shift in military enemies and for who they fought; “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.

Their service to the Lord included becoming deacons in their church, McAlester, First, starting a lasting nursing home ministry, teaching Sunday School, leading church events, speaking at schools of their military service and faith and more.

The Stokes brothers admire their medals in commemoration of being dubbed Chevaliers of the Legion of Honor.

The Stokes twins, now 93, have been honored throughout their lives with certificates, medals and ceremonies for their brave service in the war. They are both recipients of the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart from the United States Government.

Additionally, the Stokes are recognized as war heroes from other countries such as France whorecently held a ceremony in honor of their service. The ceremony was held at McAlester, First on Sun., Aug. 13. Honorary French Consul Grant Moak awarded medals in commemoration of the Stokes twins being dubbed Chevaliers of the Legion of Honor. Represented or present at the ceremony were U.S. Senator James Lankford, State Representatives Larry Boggs, Donnie Condit, Brian Renegar and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant Commander Col. Joseph D. Blanding.

From their family’s farm in Oklahoma to the battlefields of WWII and finally the sanctuary of McAlester, First, the Stokes twins have never lacked a desire to serve. Their fearlessness and conviction drove them to serve their country for nearly five years. More importantly, it drove them to serve their Savior for more than 65 years.

As these WWII veterans reflect on their past experiences, victories and losses, they can confidently say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).



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