Monday, November 11, 2013

Praise and Prayers on Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day.  How many veterans do you know?

I do wonder about the future of Veteran's Day as fewer and fewer people know any veterans. Or maybe as we wind down two wars which have lasted more than a decade, we're all about to meet more veterans. I think of college students. When I first started working at my current school, we had one or two veterans attending. I suspect the reasons are many, but the main one was that most people eligible for VA benefits had already finished their schooling, while younger military folks were off fighting. Now, as more soldiers come home, we're seeing those numbers increase.

I have some older, Baby Boomer friends who are anti-military in ways that make me think they've never met many military folks. I understand their Vietnam War era issues, but their world view seems a bit narrow to me.

Of course, my world view is shaped by my experience as the daughter of an Air Force officer. My dad had finished his active duty by my early childhood years, but he continued to serve in the Reserves until he retired.

In some ways, we were lucky, since he wasn't wounded in the many ways that others who served in the Vietnam War would be. He joined the Air Force because he knew his draft number was coming up, and he didn't want to be drafted into the Army. I remember the shock I felt when he told me that fact. I always thought he had joined because of his patriotic feelings. And he joined fairly early in the effort, 1962 or so. I hadn't thought that the draft had been in force back then, but it was.

So, he joined the Air Force and trained to become a navigator. Along the way, he met and married my mom. They were stationed in France, the last troops to be in France before Charles de Gaulle kicked them all out. Because they were in France, they could travel all across Europe. They had a view of the world that they shared with me and my sister.

Did he really change the world by serving in France and flying missions to Asia? How can we know for sure? Perhaps the Soviets didn't invade West Germany because they knew of nearby troops. It's hard to argue that his missions to Asia brought an earlier end to the Vietnam War, since it would continue for a lot longer.

I think of one of my best high school friends who joined the Army when she needed to pay for school.  She was stationed in Germany during the last days of the Cold War.  Did she keep the world safe for democracy?  I'm biased, but I believe she did.  I'm mindful of how many veterans I know who did what they pledged to do and then returned to regular life.  I wonder how often they wonder if they made a difference.

We often do not know the impact of our work. We must do the work that is required of us, even if we're unsure of its import.  I know many military folks who believe that they have preserved peace.  I know that their belief is true in many aspects.

I'm also painfully aware of how often peace is won at the hard cost of human life.  I'm aware of the difficult acts that must be done so that those of us across oceans can sleep peacefully at night.  I'm aware of how many veterans will never sleep peacefully through the night again.

Many active duty military people and veterans have done that work that so few of us are willing to do. So few of us are aware of what they do, and today is a good day to stop and to feel some appreciation--as well as the hope that some day wars will cease and this kind of service won't be necessary.

Here's a prayer I wrote for Veteran's Day:

God of Peace, on this Veteran's Day, we beseech you to renew in us the determination to be peacemakers. On this day, we pray for all who are damaged by wars big and small. We offer a prayer of thanks for our veterans, and we offer a prayer of vision that military people across the world will find themselves with no warmaking jobs to do. We offer our hopeful prayers that you would plant in our leaders the seeds that will sprout into saplings of peace.

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