Seventy years ago, World War II was almost a year old. The United States had yet to enter the war directly, though they were sending supplies to their allies in Europe. Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia were marching (literally and figuratively) through Europe and Asia, defeating and laying claim to those countries they desired. It was a frightening time at home and abroad. And things had only just begun.
As the world remembers the 75th anniversary of its second world war, we would like to take the opportunity to spotlight a few Advent Christian Village members who served our United States as servicemen and women during those years of war. Without the personal sacrifices of brave individuals from all over, the outcome of the last world war would not have been as favorable. One such individual is Cushman Bryant.
Cushman grew up in Vermont. After the war had been going on for a few years, he received a draft notice during the summer of 1943. Not having yet graduated from high school, Cushman’s mother and principal worked it out that Cushman could receive a deferment in order to complete his senior year in half the time and report for military service during the winter of 1944. Cushman says he believes his teachers took pity on him, helping him to pass all his senior classes in half a year, and sending him off to Navy boot camp in January 1944.
After boot camp, Cushman was assigned to the USS Waldron, a destroyer named for John C. Waldron, a US Naval aviator who led a squadron of torpedo bombers earlier in the war. Cushman was assigned as a gunner’s mate, but construction on the ship was not finished until early summer 1944.
Stationed in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a short distance by train from his hometown of North Springfield, Vermont, Cushman was granted leave to return home for his high school graduation ceremony. Though administration had asked for all applause to be held until the last name was called, when Cushman strode across the stage in uniform to receive his diploma, he received a standing ovation.
For the next two years, Cushman served on the Waldron. The Waldron’s main duty was to escort ships in the Pacific which were putting the pressure on Japanese forces.
One of the more memorable events Cushman remembers is when a Japanese picket boat attacked another destroyer and then attempted to break by the Waldron in order to get to the ships the destroyers were protecting. The Waldron could not fire on the boat because of its proximity to the other destroyer, so she rammed the picket boat, splitting it in two.
During Cushman’s two years as a sailor, he says he may not have advanced in rank or performed any memorable military service, but he is well remembered because of his faith.
Cushman and two other men, after finding each other because all three read their Bibles and prayed in their bunks, approached the captain about holding regular religious services on the Waldron. The captain granted their request and supported them, even when others fought to end their activities. Cushman had not previously had any ideas of becoming a preacher or missionary, but he readily and willingly acted as a chaplain for the men serving on the Waldron, including the captain himself.
Cushman remembers fondly one particular sailor. On occasion, when in port, those who were involved in religious services on the separate destroyers would get together for what they called revival services. One of those times, an inebriated sailor approached Cushman and asked if they could pray together. Despite being warned by another chaplain that the sailor was most likely going to give Cushman trouble the next day, Cushman says he responded, “If someone asks me to pray with them, I’m going to pray.” The next day, Cushman found the sailor and discovered that he had left home on bad terms with his family and was now praying that God would heal those relationships. At a Waldron reunion, years later, people remembered that sailor and how Cushman had helped him turn his life around.
Cushman has attended several reunions of the crews of the USS Waldron. In fact, he has the special honor of being a “plank owner,” meaning he was one of the original crew aboard the Waldron when it was first commissioned.
After his time in the Navy, Cushman attended the New England School of Theology and served as pastor at many churches in the East, even after his retirement to Advent Christian Village. At Waldron reunions, he is known as Rev. Bryant and has been asked to pray, and he has also performed a wedding ceremony.
We thank Cushman for his years of service to our country. But, more than that, we thank God that he used Cushman to support and reach so many sailors though love and ministry.