Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

I have long harbored a certain mistrust for the United States Military.  One of my uncles served in the Army.  From what I can remember of conversations overheard as a child, the experience was not a good one.  Early in my high school career, I began receiving calls from all branches of the military promising that by joining them, I could hope to become the recipient of manifold benefits, and I would likely never be sent to a place where I might be shot by a person who spoke a language other than my own.  A couple of years later, the Army convinced my next younger brother that these same promises were true.  In his senior year of high school, he enlisted under the assumption that a military career would provide for himself and the young woman he intended to marry after basic training.  I met his recruiter and went with my brother to various of his meetings before entering.  I experienced a great deal of deceit on the part of the military.  "Try not to mention to your hernia surgery," my brother was advised.  "Let me teach you some ways to trick the scales and make yourself seem lighter than you are," the recruiter suggested another time.  The greatest scam of all, though, was a signing bonus that never materialized.  That is the military.  The military, however, is not the same as a soldier, a sailor, an airman, or a marine.  For these people, I maintain an incredible respect, believing that as regards the military, the whole is somewhat less than the sum of its parts.

Today, Memorial Day, we remember in a particular was those who have fallen in service of their country and of their countryman.  As a priest, I speak often of the call that each of us has to lay our lives down in sacrifice for the love of our brother, and I do mean it.  We are each called to make a sacrifice of our lives.  Very few of us, however, do so to the point of shedding our blood.  For those in our armed forces, though, such sacrifice is a reality.  Today, most of them will find themselves in situations with a high likelihood of giving their lives for the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  They do so recognizing, as we all eventually must, that true happiness necessarily consists in a willingness to die for a cause greater than ourselves and that our lives have been given to us for the sole purpose that we might return it as a gift to others.  They stand before us as signs of valor and honor; they remind us of who we are called to be.

Today we recall in a particular way those who gave their lives.  We would be remiss to forget, however, that few emerge from the military unscathed.  Those who have seen combat must live with the memories of it.  Though a real problem for those returning from combat, PTSS often goes untreated.  Mental illness runs rampant among those discharged from the service.  Rates of alcoholism and other addictions are very high.  Infidelity and divorce rates are astronomical among service men and women.  Moreover, they often return to a nation hostile to them because we fail to distinguish between a war itself and those who fight in it.  The men and women who sacrifice in this way deserve our respect, our compassion, and our admiration.

Those who have died serving this nation likewise deserve our admiration, and more importantly, that we honor those ideals for which they gave their lives.  Most especially, they deserve our prayers.  They have given their lives for the sake of the liberties we enjoy each day, and they have often done so without the benefit of the sacraments of the Church to guide them from this world to the next.

Almighty and eternal God,
those who take refuge in you will be glad
and forever will shout for joy.
Protect all soldiers as they discharge their duties.
Protect them with the shield of your strength
and keep them safe from all evil and harm.
May the power of your love enable them to return home
in safety, that with all who love them,
they may ever praise you for your loving care.

Lord Jesus and Mary, Mother of God,
Hold the brave souls of those who have fallen in battle
 in the palm of your hand.
Comfort them and their families.

Look kindly on your departed veterans who courageously served our nation.
Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son
they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom
and rejoice in you with your saints forever.

Send angels of protection, love, and comfort
to all the service men and women at war.
Bring them home safely and comfort their families.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
St. Martin of Tours, pray for us.
St. Sebastian, pray for us.
St. George, pray for us.
St. Joan of Arc, pray for us.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. Awesome!


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