The holiday that hurts-Veterans Day
The Holiday that Hurts
Veterans Day hurts. It doesn’t cause a sharp pain. It’s more like a series of dull aches that remind one of earlier injuries. Veterans Day makes us think of war, and the pain that war brings. It tells us that a generation of our forefathers was greatly mistaken.
America did not so much jump into World War One as it was pushed in. But once engaged, the country responded with great enthusiasm. Posters were made, songs were written, and laws were passed in support of the war. This is when many Lutheran churches stopped using the German language in worship services and schools.
They said it would be, “The war to end all wars.” So, when the armistice was signed at the 11th hour of the 11th month of 1918, there were those who believed they were seeing the last generation of military veterans. There would be no more war veterans after this, they thought, because there would be no more wars.
It pains us to think how naïve they were. The sons of these same troops would march off to fight over some of the same ground their fathers had once fought for. Sons of World War Two veterans would fly off to battle in some rice paddies in Southeast Asia. Sons and daughters of those veterans would head off to combat in two wars in the Middle East. And, it is not over yet.
One Veterans Day ache makes us recall that thousands upon thousands of young Americans have gone to distant and dangerous places to keep death and danger from our shores. Veterans serve as a reminder of the failure of mankind to end war. It’s a sign of our weakness. This ache comes from disappointment.
Another ache is felt. This one prompts us to realize how rarely many of us think about the sacrifices that others have made to defend our country. It hurts to think that some of our fellow citizens have invested years of their lives; some have sacrificed limbs; some have sacrificed lives—and we seldom appreciate it. We seldom thank those veterans who live among us. This ache comes from regret.
The deepest ache is caused by shame. Beyond everything else, and everyone else, we have neglected to give adequate credit to the One who shields our country from above and beyond. It is he who provided America with the necessary arms and Armed Forces. It is he who gave us the victories (those battles could have so easily been lost). It is he who blessed the efforts of the defenders of freedom. It is shameful for us to boast of our strength.
In the end, the Lord of the Nations is the only source of peace. His armistice was announced over the fields of Bethlehem when he sent the Prince of Peace into the world. The warfare between God and mankind is over. That peace stands forever.
The Veterans Day hurt is a good hurt, however. It prompts us to appreciate those that have served in the Armed Forces of America—and to thank the Lord our God for providing them.
This hurt makes us ache for peace.
Rev. Paul C. Ziemer
National Civilian Chaplain to the Military
Armed Forces Liaison of WELS
Written for WELS.net for Veterans Day 2012
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