Wednesday, November 11, 2009
“I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” Matthew 15:32
When I was a child, we had friends who owned a store at the shore. Both my Dad and Mr. Shadbolt were Navy veterans. They had served in World War II and my Dad had also served in Korea and stateside during Vietnam. They decided that they would hold a nightly flag ceremony, as the sun set over the ocean. As the flag would be lowered, my brother would play taps and then Mr. Shad would broadcast "God bless America" sung by Kate Smith. The record was scratchy and sometimes it would make me laugh. They were patriots and veterans who didn't want to forget all the fallen. It was a time when compassion for soldiers and their families was at an all time low. The ceremony has gone on for years, continued by the present store owner, who is a vet himself. Since 9/11 the ceremony has taken on new meaning and people flock there every night throughout the summer.
Having compassion for, and honoring those who have served their country and who have offered their lived for the greater good is what veteran's day is about. I can't hear Kate Smith sing without thinking of all the fallen soldiers and all the victims of war and attacks of terror. I am profoundly moved by those who were willing to die so others might live. I can still see my father, in his dress whites, standing in a sea of marines as they were heading off to Vietnam. Lots of folks wouldn't risk honor and compassion in those days because of politics. God is not concerned with right politics but with compassion and honor - for the hungry, for pilgrims, for the homeless and for those who offer their lives in the service of others. May today be a day when we remember those known and unknown who have valiantly offered their lives so that we might thrive. And may we remember those who taught us compassion and honor through their lives and actions.