how do we really honor our veterans?

according to “Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918. In legislation that was passed in 1938, November 11 was dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’ As such, this new legal holiday honored World War I veterans.

In 1954, after having been through both World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress — at the urging of the veterans service organizations — amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting the word ‘Veterans.’ With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

i highlighted original intent of veterans day was world peace; i highlighted the amplification of the recipients is now for vets from all wars.

the sacrifice that people who enter the military cannot be overstated. they give up the greater part of decision-making about their lives– and the lives of their families– to their superiors. many site the higher ideals of “protecting our democracy or rights or insuring peace” as a reason for their military service– and it is true. the lives of these men and women are to be respected primarily because they are human beings made in the image and likeness of God. but their willingness to enter the military and give their lives for others is exemplary.

but not all who enter the military will experience war. i do not know what the percentage is. my guess is that because of the gulf wars, plus the ongoing presence in iraq and afghanistan, there are a significant number of veterans now. perhaps there are more vets now than ever since the vast majority of surviving WWII vets have now passed on.

to truly honor our vets who have experienced war is to listen to their stories, take seriously the effects from their war experiences on them and their families and attend well to their post war needs.

i am no expert in this area, but it seems to me that we, as a nation, could do a lot more to honor and take care of our vets. it is more than putting up a big flag and playing patriotic music. it is more than giving out tickets to a sporting event and during a timeout having the military folks stand for applause. these can be good things but in some ways, these can be seen as exploitative photo ops and quasi-propaganda stunts.

to truly honor our vets would include having a top notch veterans affairs department– especially the hospitals. for the care of vets and all military people, could our VA hospitals be anywhere comparable to the good research hospitals? are our VA doctors and nurses paid on that level? i would like our vets to say that they get the best care in our VA hospitals.

to truly honor our vets would be to make sure that they have adequate housing for then and their families in their post-military years. how many vets struggle financially and worry about housing? how many of our vets end up homeless?

to honor truly our vets is to be dedicated to the cause of world peace. the united nations began after WWII for this purpose too. the US participates in the UN to the degree that it benefits our own country’s interests in the world. at our worst, we exploit our military power through the UN and can bully the UN security council for our advantage. the most infamous example in recent memory was the claim of weapons of mass destruction in iraq to justify that war. thirty years later we as a nation are reeling from the effects from those lies. how many vets served in these “wars?” how many have needlessly died in the middle east? why did this mass exploitation happen and have we learned any lessons from it?

is the US military primarily for real world peace or for private and public economic interests for the US? what is our support and participation for the UN peacekeeping forces? how do we lift up and teach peace? what makes for a “just” war these days in light of weapons advancement and post 9-11 terrorism? what is our nation’s moral compass for sending in troops into wars?

many people who enter the military see no other viable options in their lives. there is always the money for education that entices those who sign up. our military is made up of poor people from poor families; these are disproportionately people of color. can the rich see people who are poor as pawns who can be easily sacrificed in our world?

how much does our framework of racism enter into the political decisions to send in our troops into war? do we exploit the lives of real people and give unspeakable heartache to their families in their deaths? who benefits? how does our government take advantage of the ideals of democracy and patriotism in order to advance dubious unspoken ends?

today is veterans day. to put out a flag is to honor all our vets. to pray for our vets and all military personnel is a good thing too. but we remember the history and heart of what this day is about: dedication to world peace. to truly be committed to this goal with other nations would authentically honor our vets and their families. and to care authentically for our vets and their families takes a will and real actions for their good. in the christian perspective: how do we love our neighbor (who are vets and their families)?

it would help us all as a nation to live the ideals that we so highly lift up.

let us pray:

God of peace, we pray for those who have served our nation and have laid down their lives
to protect and defend our freedom.

We pray for those who have fought, whose spirits and bodies are scarred by war,
whose nights are haunted by memories too painful for the light of day.

We pray for those who serve us now, especially for those in harm’s way.
Shield them from danger and bring them home.

Turn the hearts and minds of our leaders and our enemies to the work of justice and a harvest of peace.

Spare the poor, Lord, spare the poor!

May the peace you left us, the peace you gave us, be the peace that sustains,
the peace that saves us.

Christ Jesus, hear us!
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer! Amen.

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