This is possible because of the freedom of religion we have in our country. Too often, we take it for granted.
That is not the case with Nicholas Perkins Oglesby. He recently moved to Woodstock to be with his daughter and son-in-law, Betsy and Fred Decker.
There was a time in his life Nick didn't have the freedom to worship. That time included Christmas of 1944 and Easter of 1945. He was a World War II prisoner of war in Burma after being captured by the Japanese.
It was late in the day on Christmas in 1944 when he arrived at the prison where he was held. It was twilight. Looking out of a window, he saw men who looked like skin and bones walking around. Some were singing, "I'll Be Home For Christmas." Nick wept.
Nick's father was a brilliant and successful man. His mother died when Nick was very young. On the night he was shot down, his stepmother had a vision. Nick was on the wing of an airplane and said he was OK. She told his father not to worry.
Suffering in all ways human can suffer, the POWs experienced the horrors of war. Quickly they learned not to do or say things that would anger their guards.
The food the POWs were given was very small portions of rice. Nick dreamed about food over and over. In his dreams, he could smell eggs and bacon cooking.
We've heard how most POWS were liberated during and following the war. That wasn't how it happened with Nick.
He was one of 400 prisoners being taken to be slave laborers. Since most of the bridges, highways and railroad tracks had been bombed out, they traveled on foot, trucks, barges or short distances on trains.
They moved only at night. During the day, they were interrogated. Without being collaborators, most learned to tell their captors what they wanted to hear whether what they told them was right or wrong.
The group was sighted by British air forces unaware they were POWs. The planes attacked.
Fearing for their own lives, the Japanese guards retreated. They deserted their prisoners. The POWs were free, but they were behind enemy lines with no way to protect themselves.
Using strips of their clothing, they spelled out "POWs" on the ground in big letters.
But when the British planes flew over again and saw the message, they thought it was a Japanese ploy. They attacked again. Only one person was killed. It was the highest ranking officer of the group.
Dressed in Burmese clothing, a few of the prisoners made their way through the Japanese lines to the British troops. Finally, they were all rescued.
Nick remembers after months of nothing but rice, they were given hot tea with rum. "It was delicious."
He had gotten malaria and was hospitalized in Kolkata. Over and over, they believed he was cured. But the fever, shaking and horrible taste would come back. Finally, it was over.
Nick came home. He may have been joking when he told me it took him only 10 minutes to readjust to life in the United States.
Before he was shipped overseas, he had been sent to a base in Marietta. A sergeant knew about a dance that was to be held at a golf club. He told his unit what uniform to wear and where to meet if they wanted to go to the dance.
There was where he met Rosalyn Katherine "Bootsie" Maddox. She was 16, and he was 20. After the war ended, he borrowed $15 from her grandmother for a license, and they were married. He confesses he never repaid the loan.
Nick, a most deserving gentleman, has been blessed with a rich heritage both before and after the war. He and Bootsie had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their marriage lasted until Bootsie's life ended on March 31. She was 84. They had been married for 65 years.
You may wonder why I chose to write Nick's story at Easter. It is to remind us that freedom of religion is one of the most precious rights we have as Americans.
It is because of the sacrifices of thousands of men and women like Nick Oglesby that we can sing during this Easter season, "Christ the Lord is risen today, Hallelujah."
Marguerite Cline is a former superintendent of Cherokee County schools and former mayor of Waleska.