Carver McGriff is a humble man.
So, McGriff said he was surprised by being named to the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame.
“It came as a very underserved honor,” said McGriff, who will be inducted Nov. 4 in Indianapolis. “I have no idea what I did to deserve it, not very much.”
The 98-year-old Zionsville resident served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the 90th Infantry Division, which invaded Normandy, France, in 1944. McGriff, then a 19-year-old private, landed in Normandy June 9, 1944, three days after the D-Day landings. He received the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts for acts of heroism. After being wounded, he was captured by the Germans in July 7, 1944. McGriff was rescued almost a month later by U.S. troops. Following surgery in England, McGriff remained in the Army in England and then in France in an administrative role until the conclusion of the war.
McGriff has made frequent trips back to Normandy. He also received the Legion of Merit award from the French government for his service in liberating France from Nazi occupation.
McGriff and his wife Marianne have led several groups on tours of the Normandy beaches where Allied troops landed and liberated France. McGriff has been a speaker at D-Day events.
“When we go to Omaha Beach, where 9,000 people were buried, and go and select a cross and I tell them you’ll see the name of the boy that lies there and say a prayer for him,” McGriff said. “Then we get in our bus and go over to the German cemetery, and we do the same thing. We walk among the graves of German soldiers, and we say a prayer for him. We remind them God wants us to be friends. It’s a step in the direction of forgiveness and love.”
McGriff spent 26 years as senior pastor at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, building the congregation from 900 members to more than 4,000 when he retired in 1993.
“With the understanding, none are going to be made into movies, I’ve written 10 books,” he said.
McGriff wrote “Making Sense of Normandy: A Young Man’s Journey of Faith and War” in 2007.
“It was trying to make sense of what happened and my part in it and some of my friends who didn’t return,” he said. “With a little more maturity than I had back then, I was able to go back and think through it.”
One of McGriff’s three daughters, Sarah, went to Berlin to start a church.
“She remained in Germany and met a wonderful young man and married him,” he said. “So, here I have three German grandchildren.”
McGriff, who graduated Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, earned his bachelor’s degree at Butler University, his seminary degree from Garrett Theological Seminary in Chicago and his doctorate of ministry from the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. He has been given the outstanding alumni award from all three of those institutions.