Just Another Holiday?

Politics aside. Most importantly we start this week off by celebrating and honoring the men and women who serve our country through the military. Veterans Day.
Now, don’t blah, blah, blah me just yet.

If veterans day is only significant for you because you get a day off of work tomorrow or because you think back to the days of ole’ with some fond memories towards the “cute” little old men who fought in WW1, take a minute to rethink it’s significance with me.

Politics aside, these are a group of men and women, young and old, who voluntarily choose to protect and defend our country. They also choose to serve people, to help in times of crisis, to provide stability in times of chaos. To leave their normal day jobs and turn into defender and guardsmen during their weekends, summers, and other times when they are summoned out in cases of emergency or war.

Many of these brave people do not even live in America. They have raised their kids in Germany, Japan, Italy, England, South America, all over the world. Fathers have missed the birth of their kids as they fight a war in our name; mothers have raised families without the help of a husband, and families have left their parents and siblings behind in the states in order to go all over the world as they are assigned. Not to mention the kids who sacrifice by being uprooted every three years. Men and women have trained. Studied. Pushed themselves. They have become fighter pilots. Doctors. Engineers. Nurses. Cooks. Electricians. Chaplains. Bomb specialists. They have served loyally, nobly, and at much risk to themselves and to their families in order to defend our country.

I hate the idea of war. I literally hate it with all that is within me. I hate the idea of killing people, whether they deserve it or not. I do not support the death penalty, no matter how horrific the crime, and if I could go back into time I would create human beings and force them, literally tie them to trees, to make them stay in the garden; in the place of perfection where sin would not enter their minds. Where competition, jealousy, bitterness, lust, ambition, greed, and religions did not drive people to kill one another and bloodshed was not apart of life. I have not always been this way, I have spent most of my life wanting to inflict justice on people, on wrongdoers, and wanting to avenge people with my own special form of revenge. But as I have aged, I am grateful that none of us truly get what we deserve and I am finding as I discover the depth of God’s grace, that retaliation, bloodshed, and war are not the ways of my God. So that is my idealistic, utopian moral approach to war and to killing. I cried when Sadaam Hussein was hung, and I cried when we went into war, and I cry pretty much every time I see another very human and real face of one of our military members who have lost their lives. I grieve at what we humans have done to each other.

At the same time…the world is as it is, we are humans at war. And thank God we have people who truly believe in the concept of America, who believe in our freedom and this first ever and longest lasting project of democracy enough to defend it. Today I am thankful that there are brave people. People who are willing to sacrifice. Who are willing to make the world better. I am thankful for my brother in law who has served two stints in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am thankful that he prays for the men underneath him. That he uses his free time on the base to go out into Iraq into the orphanages and schools to provide supplies for kids, to help be apart of their education, and to love on them. I am thankful that he encourages his friends and families to send money so he can, with his own two hands, spend his free time rebuilding things that have been destroyed alongside of the Iraqi people. I am thankful that he graduated top in his class at West Point along with 2 other good friends who have already lost their lives in this war, and that instead of quitting in the face of such painful losses, he is training to be a doctor so that he can help those who are injured.

I am thankful for my dad who is a Lt. Colonel and spends his time as a chaplain ministering to families who have lost loved ones. To families who are saying good-bye to a parent as they leave for war. That he serves his local base, journeys with them and strengthens them in their spiritual walk and helps them as they process through tough moral issues like war, family, and death. I am thankful that he cares and that for over twenty five years he has been ready and willing to serve as asked. I am thankful for my grandpa and uncle who served in Vietnam and who have both given brilliant contributions in math and aviation and their entire careers to the military. To my other uncles and cousins who have served in Japan, Hawaii, Germany, and numerous wars, I am grateful.

I have grown up in a military family. And while I hate the idea of war, we live in a world where it has become necessary to have a prepared military that can always defend and protect us. I have the utmost respect for our military that volunteer to support, uplift, and protect our freedoms as Americans. They are noble. They truly believe in patriotism and in the goodness and possibility of the American dream. They are brave, self-sacrificing (sometimes to a fault), strong, and the hardest workers you have ever met. Their families are strong. Their communities, a world within themselves, are resilient, efficient, and enduring. Ask a man or woman why they serve our country and they will not tell you they were forced to, they will tell you they want to, they count it an honor.

So today, we start off by honoring veterans. Men who freed holocaust victims, who suffered through Vietnam, Pearl Harbor, the world wars, and men and women now who currently serve us all over the world. Do you know someone in the military who is currently in war? Write them a letter. Send them a package. Cook their family back home a meal. Write a letter to their parents. Want to do something nice for the military in your community? Go to the airport one day and greet soldiers coming home from war, it is a pretty incredible experience. Collect books and DVDs to send overseas or baby presents for expecting mothers. This weekend we had a lady record our concert and worship conference and we said a special prayer for her husband who has been in Afghanistan for a year. She is sending him the DVD as an encouragement to him and his men, to show him that 2,000 people back home were grateful for him and were praying for him…there are lots of things we can do to say thanks. So do something.

This Veterans day take the time to tell a veteran or their family that you appreciate their service and sacrifice. It will mean the world to them. And if you happen to be a veteran or current military member reading this, know that there are people like me in the world who think you do a pretty incredible job…and today I am so very grateful for you.