Saved to the Uttermost: An Interview with Ralph Monahan
Recently, I sat down with Ralph Monahan who in August, 2018 celebrated his 98th birthday. He is one of the remaining number of veterans quickly vanishing from the scene who faithfully served their country in the Armed Forces during World War II. This is the sum and substance of my interview with him as he described the hand of the Lord in his life and God’s faithfulness to Him during that time and afterwards.
– Mark Kolchin
Q. Ralph, tell me a little of your background – where you grew up and how you came to know the Lord?
A. I grew up in Jersey City, NJ and attended the Dwight Street meeting where I came to know the Lord at the early age of ten through a dedicated Sunday School teacher.
Q. You told me after your childhood years you served in the military. What age were you when you went into the Armed Services and in what branch did you serve?
A. I went into the service around age 20 and decided to serve in the Air Force. I had just been married and was working at the time for Pan American Airways when I was drafted almost immediately after the draft began.
Q. What were your duties in the service?
A. I served as a tail gunner. That is the person who fires the gun through an opening in the back of the plane.
Q. During your time of Air Force, did you ever sense the presence of the Lord in your life in a special way?
A. Yes, I sensed the Lord working in my life many times. The local chaplain was a spiritual help to me and some of my fellow soldiers were believers and we would encourage each other. It is always good for fellow believers to help each other in the Lord, especially in the military.
Q. What is the most memorable event during your time in the Armed Forces?
A. It came not long after I went in. During a training flight in a B-27, one of the engines caught fire at 10,000 feet. Our pilot told us to “stay with it,” meaning not to parachute and that he was going to land the plane.
Q. That must have been frightening at the time. What happened next?
A. The pilot did quickly bring the plane down, but when he landed, one of the engines dropped off when it made contact with the ground, immediately jerking the plane to one side. The window was sucked out and I went with it, causing me to come tumbling down the tarmac at 120 mph.
Q. Do you remember any of that?
A. No, I don’t. My fellow service men who witnessed the event, at first thought they saw the engine going down the pavement, but quickly realized that it was me!
Q. So, you would say that the most memorable event, you cannot remember! What do you remember after this?
A. I was told later that I was in a coma for more than three weeks. When I came out of it, I remained in the hospital for almost three months. As I got stronger, I served as a volunteer in the hospital until I was released.
Q. What happened when you returned to reunite with your fellow servicemen?
A. I didn’t. While I was in the hospital my unit went out on a bombing mission – and never returned. Because I was medically-restricted, I could not be released, otherwise I would have been with them and might not have returned either. The Lord spared my life again.
Q. Wow, that is a very clear testimony of the Lord’s hand in your life. What happened after your discharge from the service?
A. Afterwards, I returned to civilian life and went back to my job as a mechanic with Pan American Airways. Funny, I actually worked on the same type of aircraft that I trained on. My wife Marie and I moved to East Meadows, NY where we raised our family of four. We attended and were actively involved with the assembly at Freeport, NY on Long Island. After many years there, we then moved to the senior living community where I have now lived for almost 23 years. Marie went to be with the Lord about seventeen years ago. Through it all I can truly say that the Lord has been faithful to me.
Even though health-restrictions now prevent him from attending his fellowship, Ralph is still active in his senior living community. He is a shining example of the company of the faithful – the “greatest generation”, a willing servant in the house of the Lord, working for His Saviour wherever and whenever he has the opportunity.
“…for those who honor Me, I will honor” 1 Sam. 2:30