Veterans Day: Honoring, helping our heroes

Isaiah 2:4 contains the well-known passage, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

What a world that would be! But we do not live in that world today, and we are not likely to live in that world any time soon. In fact, so long as we insist on trying to make it there under our own power, it’s never going to happen. We can only get to that world by the grace of God.

In the meantime, we will have war, and rumors of war. And we will have veterans who carry the scars of war—some clearly visible, some hidden in dark places.

In the United States, Veterans Day was originally named Armistice Day in 1918 to signify the end of what would become known as the First World War. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed that it be celebrated on November 11, because it was at 5 AM on the morning of November 11, that surrender papers were signed by Germany and the victorious Allies in a small railroad car parked on a siding in a French forest near the front lines.

The papers called for fighting to stop along the entire Western Front at precisely 11 a.m.—the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. After more than four years of bloody conflict, the Great War was soon to come to an end. It was called the Great War, because at the time nobody could imagine that it would followed by another World War.

From the Civil War to today, 41,892,128 people have served in the U.S. Military in times of war. In 2011, 21.6 million men and women in America were veterans. They came from all walks of life, but every one of them had in common the willingness to serve our country, no matter what was asked of them. Every one of them displayed courage, made sacrifices, and was worthy of honor.

While Memorial Day, celebrated in May, honors our heroes who died in battle, Veterans Day honors all who served, whether they are living survivors, or were killed in action, or died from other causes.

Most surviving veterans return from combat with bodies and minds that appear whole and intact. But many are neither whole nor intact. Some return with scars that cannot be seen. In 2011 nearly 3 million veterans, 14 percent of those yet alive, reported having a service-connected disability.

All come back with memories—some good, some bad, some so bad that they are rarely, if ever, shared. Some veterans bring back memories of combat that will haunt them to the end of their days, memories that would flat-out terrify you if you had them.

A cost has been paid that many cannot see. If you are not a veteran or the family member of a veteran, I invite you to thank God that you have been spared paying that cost. And I ask you to pray faithfully for our veterans and their families.

While you are at it, I invite you to pray for the day when we can stop making veterans and mourning heroes, when nation shall no longer lift sword against nation, and we no longer must face or fight the onslaught of terrorism.

May God bless our veterans, and may God bless America. Amen.

By Pastor Dave Ryan

Dave Ryan is a local pastor serving Kensington “Old Brick” UMC and Bridesburg UMC, both in Philadelphia, while he attends Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown. He is veteran who served in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War from 1971 to 1975.

Also, be sure to read Bishop Peggy Johnson’s Bishop’s Blog essay on honoring and serving those who served us on Veterans Day.

Read our denomination’s official Book of Resolutions statement about veterans and also articles about ministries involving military service members and chaplains. Plus see celebration ideas and resources your church can use for Veterans Day: Ministry With Those Who Serve