Commentary: D-Day veteran micro-documentary premieres June 6, 2020

Reporter Jacob Granneman spoke with D-Day vet, Joseph Meiners, now that interview has been made into a mini documentary

VANCOUVER — There have been 76 June the sixths since 1944. I wonder how many of them I never thought about. I think about everyone now. Because of Joe. 

Jacob Granneman
Jacob Granneman

As some readers will remember, shortly after D-Day of 2019, I wrote a story about my friend Alex and I’s trip to interview Joseph Meiners, who is a veteran of the Normandy beaches and the D-Day invasion of WWII. 

I am pleased to announce and tease the release of the miniature documentary project that has now been produced from that trip and interview. At the start of next week, on June 6,, with partners elsewhere in Washington, is honored to tell Joe’s story.

Joseph Meiners is shown here at his home in Nezperce, Idaho. Photo by Alex McFeron
Joseph Meiners is shown here at his home in Nezperce, Idaho. Photo by Alex McFeron

Joe was born and raised in Idaho, very close to Nezperce where he was living when I spoke with him. He was supposed to be a baseball star, and was even recruited by the Red Sox. Then he was drafted in the second world war against Nazi Germany. 

He married his wife on leave from bootcamp, honeymooned in the humble Lewiston, Idaho and then returned to training for war. His wife would discover she was pregnant with their son while Joe was in Europe shortly after D-Day. 

Joe landed on the beaches and saw bloodshed and death beyond my comprehension. He told me he witnessed a wounded man’s heart beating in the open air. He had to save as many wounded as he could, so they only helped those they knew would survive. 

“My wife, I hesitated about telling her everything. I know if I hadn’t been a good Christian, I would have been off the deep end,” Joe said. “It’s just something in the past. That’s what I try to do to bring them back to it, to see what can happen to you in a war like that. We’re [always] at war with some country. We’re at war with ourselves.”

He should have died at least three times. But he didn’t. He was shot at, buried alive even pronounced dead of a heat stroke, but came back to life. He believes there is only one explanation: his relationship with Jesus. 

When we visited with Joe last year, I remember him telling us how he was “ready to meet his Lord.” He was 95 at the time. He made it to 96.

In December of 2019, Joe went to be reunited with his wife, his parents, his son, and all his brothers in arms who died on European soil. He finally is able to see his Jesus; face to face. 

This reporter was filming Christmas lights for when I got the message about Joe passing. I had called him on Veterans Day, but wasn’t able to connect. I’ll be wholly transparent, I nearly cried in my car.

(From left to right), reporter Jacob Granneman, WWII and D-Day veteran Joseph Meiners, and Vancouver photographer Alex McFeron. Photo courtesy of Jacob Granneman
(From left to right), reporter Jacob Granneman, WWII and D-Day veteran Joseph Meiners, and Vancouver photographer Alex McFeron. Photo courtesy of Jacob Granneman

Joe impacted my life in a way I did not expect. It is my hope, he will do the same for you with this film. 

“Meeting Joe was like receiving a gift I never knew I needed,” said Vancouver-based photographer, Alex McFeron. “He opened his home to two strangers, and we left best friends. It’s difficult to put into words the impact Joe has had on my life ever since, but I will never forget meeting him and the love he had for others. What a man of God.”

I’ll leave you with one more brief story to peak your interest in this man who lived through a great deal of pain, only to live through more, but still remain joyful. 

After the war, Joe went back to farming with his family in Idaho. His son who was born during the war was 18 by now. One night, coyotes were howling and making a raucous noise around the property, as well as frightening the dogs.

Joe went out with a shotgun to scare them off. It didn’t work. So his son came out.

Joe’s son was planning to go to the 1964 World’s Fair in Seattle with a friend the next day before continuing to Bible College to be a worship leader. 

His son proceeded to say, “It’s ok dad. I’ll handle this.” He played his guitar around the perimeter of the property. Calmly. Peacefully. 

“The third time around, it was absolutely quiet,” Joe recalled. 

The next day, his son was killed in a head-on collision enroute to college. Joe prayed for him to wake up at the hospital for hours, but he never did. Joe walked to the top of a hill near his home after that. He pounded his first into the earth.

“God, why are you doing this to me?” he said. 

In the pain he found peace. When I arrived at his home a note hung on the door to the effect of: “This is the home of Joe Meiners. God is with me here, and I pray for every soul who comes in. Just know God loves you and I would love to pray for you.”

D-Day. The Battle of the Bulge. WWII. Death. Loss. It seems nothing could separate Joe from loving people. I experienced it first hand. As we left that weekend last year, he said to Alex and I:

“You are both my dear friends … my lifelong friends. I love you guys.”

Watch the micro-documentary, “Joe Was There” on next week. 

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