Archived Story

Local POW offers perspective

Published 9:21am Tuesday, August 27, 2013

He did it again! I’m so amazed by this man’s intuition.

For the past two years, a local hero I didn’t know prior to 2011 has had the unique ability to call me when I most needed a true friend. Each time I hear his voice, a voice inside my head instantly says, “You think you have problems? Measure them against what this man has faced.”

If I miss church, which I am prone to do, he calls. If he likes an article I wrote, he calls. If he has a neat story he wants to tell, he calls. If he’s just bored and wants to catch up, he calls.

And every time I see Bill Washburn’s name on my caller ID — every single time — I am facing something in my personal life that is instantly prioritized by his voice. It’s like he knows I need an attitude adjustment.

As soon as I answer the phone and hear him speak my name, no matter his reason for calling, I am reminded I really don’t have any problems at all.

Bill was a prisoner of war in World War II. He’s faced the very real threat of instant death and lived to tell about it. He’s lost his lifelong love and suffered the accompanying despair and depression. He knows what it truly means to fear, suffer and lose.

I don’t.

I’ve written about Bill several times since 2011. He called me out of the blue in March of that year and said he had a story. He asked me to write about a veteran’s service scheduled a few weeks later at Central Christian Church.

Then, once I peppered him with questions, he blew my mind. I remember getting off of the phone in a semi-daze. I had just spoken with a real American hero, albeit a reluctant one.

What this hero didn’t know when he called that first time was that I was struggling with my responsibility to get my children back to church. I’ve been a believer in Jesus Christ all my life and had attended multiple churches for short bursts of time, but never truly committed long term. That’s always been my pattern.

Bill not only forced me to go to Central Christian to write the story, he also, without his knowledge, invited me back home. I grew up in and was baptized in that church. I instantly felt like the prodigal son returning home.

My daughter, Holly, went with me and literally begged to be baptized. So, we went the next week and I had the privilege of watching my baby give her life to the Lord. Then, my son, Andy, followed suit.

If you are a believer, you know the feelings I experienced seeing my children make the most important decision of their lives.

But, true to form, I soon began missing services due to laziness. Following one extended absence, Bill called me one Saturday evening and said in a chipper tone, “I just wanted to remind you tomorrow is Sunday.” I couldn’t help but laugh at his timing. His words echoed what was being said by my conscience.

And tonight’s call was no different. Bill Washburn, an American hero and dedicated Christian, called to tell me he has missed me the past few Sundays at church. Instantly, I measured my problems against what he has overcome and, as always, considered them petty.

After our discussion, I sat down to write this article.

People say God works in mysterious ways, but in my case I don’t believe God is working undercover anymore. He has sent, and continues to send, a man I greatly respect to get my attention.

I think it’s time I listen.


Billy Bruce is a freelance writer who lives in Pedro. He can be contacted at

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