Reflection on Veterans Day
November 17, 2015
And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. (Isaiah 32:17-18, RSV)
11 a.m., Monday, Nov. 11, 1918. Finally, the guns fell silent. The war to end all war was over. Gratefully, the Doughboys came home. But not all, not the ones lain beneath the crosses of Flanders field. Of the ones who came home, many were wounded or permanently disabled. Even those who seemed to have no wounds wore deep psychological scars from the horror of war. José Narosky reminds us, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” A grateful nation welcomed them but soon forgot the debt owed to these veterans, and the annual celebrations of Armistice Day waned. Each year there were fewer parades and public meetings and the closure of business. It was not until 1938 that Armistice Day became a national holiday. In 1954, following the greatest military mobilization in the nation’s history for World War II and the military actions in the Korean War, Congress officially changed the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Today we honor the sacrifice of all who have served in the military, in time of war or peace. Men and women have put their own lives and dreams on hold and risked life and limb when their country called. Sadly, for many this day is more about sales in the stores than about honoring those who served.
Despite the sacrifices of the soldiers, sailors, Marines, and aviators in the First World War, the war to end war failed to end war. The U.S. has fought half a dozen wars, including the cataclysmic Second World War, as well as several smaller military actions in the 97 years since that first Armistice Day. After each war, we proclaim with profound hope that no more wars will befall us. In fact, each war seems to sow the seeds of its successor. As the prophet Ezekiel said, “They have misled my people, saying ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace.”
How can we break this vicious cycle? The bumper sticker solution “If you want peace, work for justice” contains a lot of truth. People treated unjustly with no option for improvement become bitter and cynical and turn to violence. A peaceful society is, of necessity, a just society; without justice, there is no peace, no shalom, only sometimes the temporary absence of violence. God calls us to work for justice to bring peace in our churches, in our communities, in our nation, in our world. Let us honor our veterans while working to eliminate the necessity of additional veterans.
Dear God, we pray for your peace in this war-torn world. Let us live in your righteousness that results in peace. Bless those who have been harmed by our strife and conflict. In the name of the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Ministry and Mission Coach