Pride, Commitment and Sacrifice on Veterans Day
By Sister Renee
I spend a lot of time in airports, and that can be both good and bad. One good thing about it is that the hours offer a great opportunity for reflection. In the long waits between planes, hundreds of lives pass in front of me like quick movies. As they flash past, one or another spurs me to imagine the larger circumstances they belong to. What is his family like? Is she traveling to visit grown and deeply missed children? Where does she work that demands so much of her attention? To whom is he saying that long good-bye on his cell phone? As Veterans’ Day approaches, I remember three airport scenarios in particular.
The first occurred last week in a Florida airport. As I sat at a quiet gate, a very young Marine walked down the central concourse. Everything about him shouted, “I just finished basic training and I love being a Marine!” His olive green service uniform was perfection from head to toe. His posture, gait and countenance bespoke confidence and readiness. He was the personification of well-earned PRIDE. As he turned to sit at the same quiet gate as I, he caught my eye and the grandmotherly smile I could not suppress. He gave me a polite nod that said, “I’m glad you approve.”
A few minutes after he was seated, an elderly gentleman approached him and said, “Don’t get up, Marine. I just wanted to say ‘Good Luck and God Bless You.” Their exchange continued as the older man, himself a retired career Marine (Korea and Vietnam), offered the young man advice and encouragement. I felt privileged to hear their conversation which captured the essence of human encouragement around an experience that only a distinguished few could understand.
Seeing these Marines brought to mind a day two weeks ago in the Indianapolis airport, just after the President’s announcement that our troops would be returning from Iraq. A contingent of at least 50 soldiers in full Army combat dress, deplaned and made their way through the airport. Slowly, the hundreds of people gathered in the Food Court stood, one by one, to join in a rousing applause for these men and women. Though evidencing both, the soldiers seemed more pleased than chagrined by the attention. It was moving to see their COMMITMENT so spontaneously and publicly recognized. It was a moment beyond words that acknowledged the gratitude we so often fail to speak.
The final image that fills my mind took place at the Louisville airport a few years ago. There is a long, windowed passageway between security and the gates. As I glanced out the window to my left, I saw a military detail waiting in formation at a plane’s cargo bay. With dignity and grace, a flag-covered casket was lowered into their waiting arms. The scene in itself struck my heart like a thunderbolt. But it was even more searing when I turned to see a lone soldier standing a little behind me, looking out the same window. His gear over his shoulder, he was obviously just beginning a deployment. As the casket was received, he slowly came to attention and saluted solemnly. I could only imagine the thoughts that filled his soul. It was a picture I will never forget and its caption, in my mind, is SACRIFICE.
PRIDE, COMMITMENT and SACRIFICE. These are the gifts our military men and women give to our nation. On this Veterans’ Day, let us give them back the encouragement, recognition, gratitude and dignity they have earned. To all our veterans and active duty military, thank you and God bless you.
Let us pray that we, and our sisters and brothers throughout the world, work to put down our arms, receive one another with dignity and grace, and learn to live in complete peace, respect and mutuality.