Message for Veterans Day Service


Today is the day when many nations around the globe remember and honor their veterans. The reason we honor our veterans on the 11th day of the 11th month is because on that day in 1918 (almost 100 years ago) an agreement to cease hostilities (an armistice treaty) was signed at 11:11 o’clock in the city of Compiegne, in Northern France and WWI was officially over.


Shortly after, President Woodrow Wilson wrote,

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations” (Veterans Day Quotes).


Veterans Day is about gratitude and stewardship. On Veterans Day, we proclaim our gratitude to those whose service in the military has secured our freedoms through the years. Whether or not we approve of our nation’s foreign policy, we need to support the everyday people — mostly working class, often minorities — who fight our nation’s wars (Epperly).


President John F. Kennedy wrote, “As we express our gratitude [to the veterans], we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them” (Veterans Day Quotes).


Today, I want to talk about two veterans who happened to be my neighbors when I lived in the Browntown neighborhood of Wilmington, DE. Their names were Mr. Steve and Mr. George.


Both were decorated veterans who fought in WWII. Mr. George fought in Sicily and Mr. Steve fought in the Pacific. Both were cool characters and I remember the day when they talked to me about patriotism as if it was yesterday.


Around Memorial Day, all of our neighbors would fly the flag and I remember the day in May of 1986, when for the first time I had my own townhome and how proud I was to attach the flag of my adopted country to the front of the house and hear it flap in the gentle spring breeze. It was Saturday. I stood on the front porch, closed my eyes, felt the warm sun on my face and enjoyed the sound of the wind.


Mr. George saw me putting the flag up and he came from across the street to talk to me. Soon after, Mr. Steve joined in. As we stood around the fence, they told me about their experiences in the service and I will never forget Mr. George saying,


“Asher, patriotism is not about flying the flag and watching parades… Patriotism is about how you live your life…”


President John F. Kennedy wrote, “As we express our gratitude [to the veterans], we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them” (Veterans Day Quotes).


Veterans Day is our chance to say “thank you” to men and women who served their country in the past and who are serving their country in the present. Veterans Day is about our actions in support of the well-being of veterans, especially those who have been injured or traumatized by war. Veterans Day is about our own commitment to the common good and our nation’s care for its most vulnerable citizens, those for whom our soldiers sacrifice.


Truth be told, most of us don’t know what it feels like to take another human life and what it does to our psyche; I hope and pray that we never have to find out what it feels like.


Truth be told, most of us do not understand the emotional battles that our veterans live through every day of their lives after returning home. Just like our veterans from WWII, from Korea, and Vietnam, our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home with deep physical and psychological wounds. As a nation, and as Christian sisters and brothers, it is our duty to help to heal these wounds with love, patience, understanding, respect, and admiration.


The prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus make it abundantly clear that to speak of love and sacrifice, without making the commitment to sacrifice for the well-being of our neighbors, makes us no more than “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1). When Veterans Day is understood in the spirit of the Biblical tradition, it reminds us that there is no such thing as rugged individualism or absolute property rights; everything is a gift from God to be used for the well-being of others as well as our own kin. Sacrifice is not just the responsibility of veterans; it is required of all who make a choice to follow Jesus. In the spirit of President’s Wilson’s proclamation, justice and peace should guide our national and personal decision-making. God’s vision of abundant life is much more about “us” as a community and a nation then about “me” as an individual (Epperly).



The remembrance of the sacrifices made by veterans challenges our lives.

· Do our actions promote the overall well-being of our nation’s peoples and this good earth?

· Do we focus on our own welfare to the exclusion of our neighbors?

· What are we willing to sacrifice so that others may live abundantly?


Remember Mr. Steve and Mr. George? That one story that I shared with you did not end on that warm, breeze Saturday in May.


A year-and-a-half later, I became a citizen of our great nation. I will never forget that day. The ceremony took place in Wilmington, DE. Judge Longobardi was the presiding judge. During my examination (a couple of months prior to the ceremony), I was asked to deliver an address to the new citizens after we pledged our allegiance to the flag and to our new country. How do you pack that much emotion, how do you pack that much hope, how do you pack that much faith, how do you pack that much gratitude in three to five minutes?


Mr. George’s words, “… patriotism is not about flying the flag and watching parades… Patriotism is about how you live your life…” inspired me to use a poem titled I Will Do More in my address.


Here is the poem.

I am only one, but I am one.

I cannot do everything, but I can do something.

And what I can do, I ought to do.

And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.


I will do more than belong…I will participate.

I will do more than care…I will help.

I will do more than believe…I will practice.

I will do more than be fair…I will be kind.


I will do more than dream…I will work.

I will do more than teach…I will inspire.

I will do more than earn…I will enrich.

I will do more than give…I will serve.


I will do more than live…I will grow.

I will do more than talk…I will act.

I will be more than good…I will be good for something.

(I do not know where this poem originated. If you, the reader, have this info, I will appreciate you posting it in a reply message).


On this Veterans Day 2011, let us be grateful and let our gratitude inspire us to generosity and commitment to the well-being of our nation, and most especially its most vulnerable citizens and veterans who suffer the ravages of war. Then, our love of nation will take us beyond nationalism and self-interest to the affirmation of our role as God’s partners in healing the earth.


In 1967, great American musician and composer Stevie Wonder released a song titled Someday At Christmas. It is a beautiful prayer that will touch heart of every man, woman and child who really listens and comprehends the words. Here are some of the lyrics.

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys

Playing with bombs like kids play with toys

One warm December our hearts will see

A world where men are free


Someday at Christmas, there’ll be no wars

When we have learned what Christmas is for

When we have found what life’s really worth

There’ll be peace on earth (Wonder)

Someday At Christmas is a prayer of hope and faith that someday we will live in a world where men and women are free of oppression, where guns are silent, where there is no hunger, where each heart has hope and where brotherly love prevails in every heart… That song is about everything that our veterans are hoping we will do in response to their sacrifice…



President John F. Kennedy wrote, “As we express our gratitude [to the veterans], we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them” (Veterans Day Quotes). We can express our gratitude to our veterans by working towards ideas set forth in that simple and powerful song.


God Bless America!

God bless men and women in the service of their country! and

May peace prevail all over the world!


{Open the Altar}

Works Cited

Epperly, Bruce. "Panteos.Org." 04 11 2010. Justice For Veterans and the Vulnerable. 08 11 2010 <>.

"Veterans Day Quotes." Veterans Day Quotes. 09 11 2010 <>.

Wonder, Stevie. "Someday At Christmas." Motown Classics: Stevie Wonder’s Someday At Christmas. By Ron Miller and Bryan Wells. Detroit, 1967.


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