An uplifting tale of reincarnation
By J.W. FLETCHER
Special to The News-Journal
Reincarnation -- the idea that we have lived other lives and may live future ones. World War II history -- Naval air combat in the Pacific. These two topics come together in a very unusual way in the story of James Leininger in "Soul Survivor."
At age 2, little James began having recurring nightmares of being shot down during the battle for Iwo Jima. The nightmares continued and his parents realized, over time, that he was reliving the death of Fighter Pilot James Huston from Pennsylvania. This child had knowledge of World War II aircraft and ships that no youngster should have. He remembered names and men, living and dead, from Squadron VC81.
His parents' quest to help their son led them to the USS Natoma Bay. Eventually, they attended a reunion of the squadron and traveled to the place where Huston had died more than 50 years earlier.
The vivid previous-life memories of this young child touched the lives of many others over time, including Huston's surviving 84-year-old sister. They also brought this young child into the embrace of the aging veterans of Huston's Squadron VC81, the men who flew with him.
Whether one believes in reincarnation or not, Leininger's story is an amazing one. Life is full of unexplained coincidences, large and small. Some are more difficult to comprehend than others. Is it a coincidence that my father (VC91) flew the exact same types of planes of exactly the same type of carrier as James Huston? I have attended my dad's squadron reunions exactly as described in "Soul Survivor." Is it a coincidence that the friend who gave me this book to review is also named James Huston (of Daytona Beach) and has roots in Pennsylvania? Is it a coincidence that Books Editor Karen Gallagher knows the James Huston who passed it along to me? Is it just a coincidence that a 2-year-old child appears to have vivid memories of a life years before he was born?
If you are a skeptic when it comes to reincarnation, you will probably still be one after reading this book, but it will give you something to think about.
(Note: Authors Bruce and Andrea Leininger, James' parents, live in Louisiana with their son, who is now 11.)
"Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot," by Bruce and Andrea Leininger, Grand Central Publishing, 256 pages, $24.99, hardback