Veterans Day is a time to honor men and women who spent time in the armed forces and who remain with us, unlike Memorial Day which is a time to remember those who aren’t. Our veterans should be honored. They want to share their stories with us, and we should listen.
War is always a troubling time for people of faith. We know God desires peace, and our savior is known as the prince of peace. But we also know that conflict is a reality in our fallen world. Thomas Aquinas, Augustine and others taught the “just war” theory, and this teaching has shaped our understanding as the church. We believe we must find a greater good above the carnage of war, such as preventing totalitarianism and slavery.
Our American founding fathers believed that God himself is the author of liberty and they unabashedly asked for his blessings as they fought for independence from Britain.
And historians tell us very convincing stories about the intervention of God. Young George Washington served under British Gen. Edward Braddock in 1755 during the French and Indian War. In a battle on July 9 in what is now the state of Pennsylvania, Washington had two horses shot from beneath him and sustained four separate bullet holes in his jacket. He, however, was unharmed, and went on to be the victorious general of the American Revolution and our first president.
Nevertheless, what should our response to war be?
First, we should work and pray for peace. Jesus said the peacemakers are children of God.
Second, we pray for our family and friends in the military. Most of our churches developed a prayer list of active duty military during the Gulf and Afghanistan Wars and prayed for these regularly.
Third, we honor our veterans in every way possible, lifting them up as genuine heroes.
A friend recommended the Ken Burns’ series, “The Vietnam War,” that aired on PBS, so I invested the time to view it. The series reminded me of a pivotal event of my generation. Several U.S. presidents wrestled with how to conduct this war, and how to conclude it. The anti-war movement was strong, and our country was divided. The series highlighted also how we failed to honor these brave soldiers when they returned home. We should’ve done better.
Memorial Day is a time of sadness. We remember men like my mother’s three brothers who served in World War II who are with us no longer. Veteran’s Day is a time of affirmation. We say “thank you” to the men and women who remain, and who devoted their lives to protect the rest of us.