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Every year when Veterans’ Day rolls around it makes me think about war. Today, America is at war, as we have been in one form or another throughout many years of my life. If the war was not a “hot” war, it was a “cold” war; nevertheless it was war. And wars are never fought apart from soldiers on the ground, in the air, at sea and under the sea. Men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to defend a way of life, threatened by outside forces have always been the warriors who we call veterans when they come home. And all too often some returned damaged, disabled, bruised and broken. Others return to be buried by grieving loved ones. And on this national holiday dedicated to veterans we are to pause, recall the sacriﬁces of those who went to war and served in the military, and acknowledge their courage and sacriﬁce, with grateful hearts.
When I was in college, the Vietnam War was raging and the protests of those of my age were many and loud. It was diﬃcult to ﬁnd the space in my mind between loving my country and disagreeing with her policies. There were many who saw those who opposed the war as not being loyal to a true spirit of patriotism. It was a new experience for me. I was very willing to serve the country, felt I had an obligation to do so, yet, like many, felt the Vietnam War was illegal, immoral and wrong.
I ended up serving in the United States Air Force reserves and spent time at bases in Texas, Colorado and Maine. At several times during the six years we thought our unit would be activated and we would be shipping out to war. We never were. Honorably discharged from the US Air Force in 1974, I arrive at this Veterans’ Day more skeptical about war than ever before. I keep going back to look up President Dwight Eisenhower’s comments about war. One of the most decorated US Army Generals in World War II, later two term president often spoke of the wrongness of war: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.”
When former Secretary of State John Kerry returned from the Vietnam War as a decorated veteran, he became one of the most prominent voices against the war. I recall hearing him give a speech in Framingham condemning the war. I thought for the ﬁrst time, sometimes being patriotic means disagreeing with your country’s policies. This was a veteran, who loved and served his country and I found his voice against war resonated with that of President Eisenhower.
So it is on this Veterans’ Day I share my country’s pride and gratitude for those who are serving and those who have served, and especially for those who made the ultimate sacriﬁce of their lives in service to our country. While on this day we honor veterans, for me it is also a day to pray that all wars will end and that all those serving in war zones will return safely home.
At the same time, it seems ﬁtting to exercise our patriotism by standing ﬁrmly in the camp that abhors war in every way and would seek that our nation work tirelessly to contribute to a world of greater justice for all, such that war is increasingly less likely. President Eisenhower addressed the graduating class at the United States Military Academy in 1947 and said: “War is mankind’s most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men.”
Thirty-second Sunday Ordinary Time -November 10, 2019
In today’s second reading we hear Saint Paul urging the members of the community at Thessalonica to direct their hearts to God’s love through Christ. He wants them to be laser-focused on Christ, and nothing else. He desires that they be strengthened by the Lord and shielded from what is not Christ-like. Good stewards cultivate a “laser-sharp” focus on Christ; not on things that could give them false or superﬁcial images or ideals.
Let’s think about our own daily focus:
Do we direct out hearts toward Christ or are there other “gods” that claim our attention? Our career? Material possessions? Sexuality? Favorite sports team? Political leanings?
Does our daily life point to Christ so that those who are younger and less mature in their faith learn from our example?