Marking Veterans Day, and introducing Father Capodanno
Today, November 11, is Veterans Day, originally commemorated as “Armistice Day.” On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 102 years ago today, the truce was declared that ended World War I, then known as “The Great War” and “the war to end all wars.”
“Armistice” is from the Latin arma (“arms”) and sistere (“stand still”). A century later, we are called upon to imagine the stillness, the quiet that came from laying down weapons on both sides, after years of grueling, bloody trench warfare.
The United States Congress subsequently declared that the date “should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”
Sadly, World War I was not “the war to end all wars,” and so in 1954, the day was renamed “Veterans Day” in order to honor veterans from all the wars since, not just World War I. But the words of Congress still resonate, as do the holiday’s origins in that great stillness.
We mark a day of thanksgiving: for the service of veterans, living and dead; for the service of caregivers, doctors and nurses, chaplains and mental health professionals, spouses and family members and friends, who walk with veterans through the ravages of war, even after the bullets and bombs and missiles stop flying; and for the days of peace that come at long last.
A day of prayer: for people of all faiths or no faith at all, today can provide a time of prayer, meditation, or reflection on the stillness of armistice, so that the days of peace on Earth increase, and the days of war decrease.
A day of exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations: for all of us to find ways, large and small, to build bridges across lines of difference, suspicion, or hostility, in our neighborhoods, our country, and among the nations of the world.
Last Sunday, after our outdoor service of worship on the west lawn, I received an email from one of our young adult members, a veteran, who expressed his gratitude for our marking Veterans Day with a moment to honor veterans in worship and with a prayer. He also shared the following little video profiling Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam War veteran Father Capodanno. Father Capodanno was a Marine chaplain who died in the service of our nation. If you can spare five minutes on this Veterans Day, this tribute is worthy of that time set aside:
Finally, several of Sundays’ worshippers asked for a copy of the prayer we prayed to mark Veterans Day last Sunday. The text of that prayer follows:
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 that you will bless them for their unselfish service
in the continual struggle to preserve our freedoms,
our safety, and our country’s heritage, for all of us.
Bless them abundantly for the hardships they faced,
for the sacrifices they made
for their many different contributions to America’s victories
over tyranny and oppression.
We pray as well 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.
May the peace you left us,
the peace you gave us,
be the peace that sustains,
the peace that saves us.
In your holy name we pray.
To lay down our arms. To step into a new stillness together. To sing with our ancestors that we, too, will lay down our swords and shields, “down by the riverside, and study war no more,” so that the next hundred-and-two years may be more peaceful than the last.
May God’s peace be with you on this Veterans Day, this Armistice Day, and may we lay down all of our arms, all of our burdens, in God’s great Shalom that is rising up even now, like soldiers climbing out of trenches a century ago.
Blessings to you, O people of Trinity. May you be safe, may you be well, and may you be held in love.
It remains a privilege to serve as one of your pastors.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Robert Linstrom