Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembering those who served. . .

John McCain (the Senator from Arizona) has a book out on 13 soldiers (that is the name as well, if I recall correctly).  It is a notable look at thirteen soldiers who have served our nation in various wars, fought on various battlefields, at various times in our history.  What is common to their stories is that these are not superheros but ordinary people -- flawed as well as faithful.  That is the part of things that is most appealing to me.  Some of these folks are not exactly politically correct and some of them don't even clean up well.  But that is who they were and that is who our soldiers are.  They are not shining examples of perfection but ordinary people with many faults and flaws who heard the call and served their country and each one of us as they were needed and assigned.

In an age of superhero worship, we need a healthy dose of reality when it comes to the men and women of our military.  They were and are ordinary folks -- warts and all.  What makes them heroic is not their sterling character but the fact that they heard the call, took up their arms, served their country and each one of us, where they were assigned.  That is, in and of itself, no small thing.

I have often joked that I, too, would serve if I could enter the service at the rank of, say, Major or Colonel.  It is a pretty bad joke.  The officers lead and I certainly want to give them their due but the people who win wars are most often the same kind ordinary people Sen. McCain wrote about.  They were chosen not because they were the best but because they were called and responded.  They served in grit and grime, in unpleasant settings doing unpleasant duties.  War and peace are messy and dirty and not for the faint of heart.  But they served and still serve us in this noble calling -- cracks and blemishes along with moments of shining heroism, nobility, and bravery.

My dad is one of them.  My father-in-law another.  I have cousins and friends who served and still serve.  I serve a congregation in which there are an inordinate number of active duty soldiers as well as a large contingent of those who served in the past.  Their honor lies not in some imaginary fairy tale ideal but in the reality of war and peace, ordinary men and women serving an extraordinary cause, amid all sort of things most of us would find unsettling to say the least and perhaps appalling as well.  They gave their best and sometimes it was not good enough.  That is how it goes.  The battlefields all across the world are matched by the burial plots of soldiers who fought and died.  Some of them in graves well marked and honored and some in anonymous fields with families who still wonder where, when, what... 

Today we honor them.  We remember them on this day first called Armistice Day.  Poppy Day.  And with this memory comes the reality that most of human history has been about war and conflict.  Armistice Day had it about right -- a pause in hostility and a temporary reprieve from the battle.  That is about all we get.  Cold wars turn hot and warm battles cool off but there are always threats and challenges and conflicts and enemies.  God bless you, men and women, who fight not only for the great causes of liberty and freedom but also for the small causes of me and my family.  I don't know how to say it better that this.  Thank you and God bless you.  And may there always be those who hear the call, answer its summons, and take up their lonely posts to defend our nation from enemies and threats great and small even to pay the greatest price.  And let us not forget their families who still wear the wounds of their loved ones service and sacrifice.

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