“All the believers kept meeting together, and they shared everything with each other. From time to time, they sold their property and other possessions and distributed the money to anyone who needed it. The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day. They were joyful and humble as they ate at each other's homes and shared their food.” Acts 2:44-47a (GW)
I don’t often attend Veteran Day ceremonies. I am not one of the veterans who have seen combat nor am I one of the many who stay in the services until they retired. My older brother, Larry, did retire from the military and is serving as a missionary in Germany with the Navigators. My younger brother saw combat and just reenlisted again.
It is days like today that I wish I had spent my time in and retired from it. It is days like today where I realize what is the very essence of community and who does it better than anyone else. The community of veterans; those who served in combat, those who trained for it, those who were stationed in ‘hot’ spots and those who spent their time stateside developing the tools of war….this community takes all who wear the uniform and honors them as brothers and sisters. Today is not just about the fallen, because in this community the fallen are never far from the thoughts of those still alive. Today is about the living, the combat-seasoned and the trained, coming together to have a nation that they served with their honor and with their sacrifices serve homage to them, patriots who tend the tree of freedom.
Today at Concordia University, I was honored to stand next to a WWII veteran, a Vietnam veteran, a Persian Gulf (combat) veteran, a Afghanistan veteran and a Iraq veteran. Most of them from the Navy, but a few Marines to round out the group. We talked about our experiences, whether combat or not, and the camaraderie that existed between us flowed not because of our openness but our understanding of the ‘experience of the uniform’ that we shared….not because we’ve known each other before but because we honor the fellowship of the American military member.
It doesn’t take a gathering like the beautiful ceremony offered by Concordia today for Veterans to nod and shake hands, nor does it take a day to be honored by those who are fellow citizens. All it takes is the knowledge of the membership that is conferred upon each and every military member the moment they take the pledge to serve and step from the world of the civilian into the world of the military. Once crossed, you don’t ever go back.
Oh, you grouse and complain…..you bicker and grunt under the load of the environment of being in the military…you struggle to live in two worlds, one shrouded by the protection gained from the other….you worry in the combat zones of your loved ones at home even as they worry about you in the combat zone…..you aren’t asked to sacrifice, because it was asked of you when you pledged to defend the Constitution, to go where your country sends you and to obey the lawful orders of those in leadership over you……it is expected that you will honor your pledge, and you do.
In the end of it, some serve quietly and silently reabsorb back into the world that continues on even as a new class of military men and women take the pledge to serve…..some come back, broken and bruised, having experienced the worse of combat. No matter where or how, the military member comes home changed, for better or worse and they will never be the same.
Today is the day where the citizens of this nation come together and recognize those who have ever donned the uniform of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or Coast Guard…. Active duty or Guard or Reserve. Today the fellowship of the Uniform is recognized under the flag of freedom by those who live under its shadow. Today, today….this nation gives back a little bit of what it took for the service rendered under the green, the blue, the white and the grey.
Today, my fellow Americans, is VETERAN’S DAY!