Monday, May 30, 2016

A small detail overshadows a profound moment. . .

A few weeks ago an AP story on the death of Navy Seal Charlie Keating tarnished the whole significance of his heroic and noble sacrifice by turning the focus from him and onto his grandpa.  Probably not all that many folks even recall Charles Keating and his role in a financial scandal of the 1980s but the Associated Press wanted to make sure that this was remembered right along side the noble but tragic death of his grandson in Iraq.  No matter that the grandpa had died in 2014 or that the youth had no role in all of this but to love his grandpa as any grandson would.  Nope, the AP decided that there was a larger story in all of this.  There is a larger story but it was missed by the AP.

Charlie Keating is not alone.  I am privileged to serve a parish near Ft. Campbell, KY, and there are so many gallant and selfless young men and women who daily serve the duty of our nation's freedom and security every day.  They do it without much fanfare, without much financial compensation, without much complaint, and without much notice.  Their spouses and children wait and pray with their moms and dads while they are deployed in danger zones and in harms way.  They serve lonely and difficult schedules in which their families bear a significant burden with them -- whether in time of war or in peace.

Charlie Keating is not alone.  Cemeteries are filled with tombstones and bronze plaques that mark the heroic and sacrificial service of our veterans.  My dad and my father-in-law were veterans and I still feel the goosebumps of the rifle salute, of the soldier on bended knee, presenting the flag to my mom and my mother-in-law on behalf of a grateful nation.  I remember growing up and going through the solemnities of the Memorial Day celebration of a small town in Northeast Nebraska -- the band playing the national anthem, the guns sounding off, the click of the heels as soldiers proudly wearing their uniforms of generations before, and the white cross with poppies we set off to place on the soldiers' graves.

Charlie Keating is not alone.  Service men and women die in the line of duty.  Their lives are stolen from them by terrorists and insurgents, by rebels and warriors, by enemies and despots.  They lay down their lives and spill their blood from shore to shore and field to field.  Their remains are brought home to somber reception and are left far from the places where they grew up, lived, and their families remain.  They are remembered and forgotten, by memorial and plaque, by inscription and loved ones.  They have paid the ultimate price in devotion to the cause of liberty and for the sake of their country.

At least on this day a grateful nation can say "we remember and we will not forget."  But let it not be simply a day to pause between hotdogs and potato salad, between water sports and lawn darts, between our fun under the sun. 
  • Let it be a goal and a cause we live everyday.  
  • Let us be more noble citizens of this great land because of and in thanksgiving for those who gave their lives to secure, sustain, and seal our freedom.  
  • Let us not squander their legacy on foolishness but live with common sense so uncommonly found the great opportunity each day provides.  
  • Let us bequeath to those who come after us the sacred memory of the fallen as well as the noble responsibility to live honorably and for holy purpose the gift of citizenship, liberty, and justice.  
  • Let us remember them in tears and take up their example of passionate love for country, for the cause of what is good, right, and true, and what will preserve and protect us as a nation and people to whom God has given so much.


John Joseph Flanagan said...

Pastor Peters, I appreciate your moving tribute to our fallen heroes who lost their lives over the years and in the wars we Americans have endured. We must also grieve for the women and children, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, cousins, relatives and friends who tearfully buried their loved ones as well. War is cruel. I was a Sgt in the Marine Corps and spent 1967-68 in combat in Thua Thien Province during the Vietnam War. I am as patriotic as most Americans, and understand there are times when wars are unavoidable, but let me say up front that many of our heroes died because of the misplaced and misguided policies of the political leaders of their time. For example, prior to the War of 1812, there were border communities of Canadians and New Yorkers living in harmony, trading, intermarrying, and worshipping God in their respective towns...crossing over at will and in a spirit of common fellowship. But President Madison wanted to incorporate Canada into the US, and for other justifications, he plunged us into war. With war declared, the border communities between Canada and the U.S. erupted and farms, homes, lives lost. We have fought wars which were wrong for us, like the Spanish American War. In Vietnam, Dwight Eisenhower warned President's Kennedy and Johnson to avoid placing American troops into that Far East land unless it was for a short time with a winning strategy, He was ignored, especially by Johnson, and 50,000 lives of our young Americans were lost. We have continued to make gross errors in judgment by invading Iraq, and putting our young men into Afghanistan to endure IED's and a quagmire of a 12th century tribal wasteland. I shed tears for my fallen comrades in all wars, but I despise the willful, murderous and evil motivations of politicians who use ordinary men and women to advance their own warlike attitude. I pray that we Americans can be more wise in the selection of our leaders, being especially skeptical of those who would bring us into wars with no real urgency or threat to our nation. For those who glorify war, I tell you it is not. It is a place we dare not go unless it is the only option available to protect our land.

Carl Vehse said...

The problem today is the use of undeclared wars (via the War Powers Act). Of course, it is unlikely that Congress would ever exercise its authority and responsibility to pass a declaration of war against an attacking enemy, since that would mean a commitment to the use of nuclear weapons against the enemy until they unconditionally surrender or their ability to fight is annihilated.