This is a difficult day. It’s a day to remember all of the suffering and sacrifice of those who have served in the military. Yes, it is good to thank our veterans and remember their honorable service to our country. But it is also a day of conflicted perspectives and feelings for me.
Jesus was adamantly anti violent. He was a pacifist. Thus he was against armed conflict and war. So as followers of Jesus, we, too, are to be against war and violence of every kind.
So to me it feels like there is a tension between the commitment to following Jesus who was against war and expressing gratitude to those who have served in the armed forces on Veterans Day.
There is also the underlying tension between the view that the armed forces protect our safety and security and the view that the armed forces are used to undermine working for peace in the world.
So, there is a sense in which Veterans Day is a day fraught with mixed feelings and contradictions.
I am wondering about truly remembering our veterans. What if we were to commemorate each and every person who has served this country in the armed forces? What if all those thousands and thousands of people were named and identified? What if the toll that was taken on their lives and the lives of their families was cataloged? What if their scars, emotional and physical, were charted? What if all of their stories were told? What would that be like? To know who all of these veterans were, what they did, and how it affected their lives. What if we spent Veterans Day, a holiday, pouring over the stories of veterans? Listening to their stories? Surrounded by published lists of all of their names? What if we really remembered each and every veteran on Veterans Day instead of shopping, going to the beach, and sleeping in since it is a day off?
Maybe if were really thought about the human cost of serving in the military as well as the financial cost, we would re-think our military-industrial complex.
Stanley Baldwin, British statesman and three time Prime Minister, declared, “War would end if the dead could return.”
Maybe the most significant way we can express gratitude to those who have served in the military is by abolishing war.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16