The Golden Anthology: Compiled & edited by Dean Papademetriou. Reviewed by Lyn Breck

(Lyn Breck is Founder of Renewal Retreats & Workshops and Co-director of St. Silouan Retreat, Charleston, South Carolina.)

The cover of this poignant story introduces us to Private First Class John C. Papademetriou. His open face, sincere smile, and dark eyes engage us all the more because, as a Greek-born child, he is dressed in the picture in an American soldier’s uniform.

A larger picture develops as we discover John’s birthplace in his Greek village, his parents and siblings, his extended family, and the endearing vignettes of his childhood. We are also confronted with the reality of the times in which he lived, including the shadows of Hitler and Mussolini cast across the European nations. We discover John at the age of 12 on the wrong side of a firing squad, and learn how he escaped death.

By 1947, we meet John in America, a teenager intent on learning English. His soul spilled over into prose and poetry, sometimes jovial, sometimes serious, always genuine. He had come to love life so much that he wanted to guard it at all costs. Choosing to enlist, he found himself in the Korean War, where he served by his own choosing as a medic on the front, “not having enough time to sleep in the foxhole he has dug for himself,” as he wrote.

May 12, 1951 was the day that he was killed while ministering to a fellow wounded soldier.

Threaded throughout the short life of this young man is his devotion to God, his daily prayers, his love of family and country, both his birth country of Greece and his adopted country of America. Above all, he demonstrates his overflowing love of life. There is quiet enthusiasm and reassurance when he writes: “Don’t you cry tears for me, I will return.”

Over 50 years later, one of John’s nephews, Dean Papademetriou, has paid a tribute to his late uncle worthy of a place on your bookshelf and, even more, worthy of a place in your heart. “Run, run before my soul leaves my body … run, run, the heavens are opening.”