By Barbara Kellam-Scott
We were invited to name our heroes.
There was a brother shot down in combat,
a survivor of Bataan among us.
My heart raised another kind of hero,
a softly authoritative parliamentarian.
Fred Maier had declined enlistment or conscription
to that same war, the “good war,”
the one that made the “greatest generation.”
He registered for the draft,
on the first day of the draft,
as a conscientious objector.
He served through the war
as a pastor.
First to a congregation
dominated by prep-school boys.
And on the day after Pearl Harbor,
he declared he could not bless the war.
When the war was only months old,
he went too far.
He says he pounded the pulpit,
though I can hardly imagine it,
when he declared the war
God’s judgment on both sides.
And he avoided a boycott
and postponed his ouster
only with a promise
not to preach on judgment again.
It was other young men,
as the war began its own pounding,
who took Fred home with them
from summer camp,
to be their pastor,
to the end of the war and beyond,
into his service
among the organized peacemakers
of the Presbyterian Church.
He heard Martin’s dream,
and worked for racial justice,
a witness for voter registration.
He became a presence among the peacemakers
of the denomination,
he and his Ruth.
His answers to parliamentary questions
began with a contemplative, “We-e-ll.”
When my own children reached the age of registering,
I told them about Fred.
And even though theirs was the war
of a volunteer army,
No flag is placed on his grave by the patriots.
But every poppy in a lapel cries his name to me.