Honoring Our Veterans

Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop

Wisdom 1:1-7; Luke 17:1-6

Today is Veterans Day. In fact, it is the 100th Anniversary of our national commemoration, which was first called Armistice Day. It is celebrated on November 11 because the armistice that ended World War I was signed “in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918 and this was commemorated the following year. Many other countries also remember their veterans on or near November 11. 

The reason isn’t hard to understand. World War I brought devastation and death on a scale that humanity had not previously experienced: 10 million military personnel and 7 million civilians died, and tens of millions more people were wounded in the conflict.  History also teaches us that the war settled little. Within a generation, World War II erupted, resulting in tens of millions more deaths and casualties. 

On Veterans Day, we honor all of the men and women, living and dead, who have served in our nation’s Armed Forces both in times of war and in times of peace. We are grateful for their sacrifice and their service. Some made “the ultimate sacrifice,” and gave their lives in combat. Others live with the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual scars of war. They and their families need our support, including our prayers.

Today is also the Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, the patron soldiers. He himself served in the Roman Army before becoming a bishop in what is now part of France. According to a legend, when he was still a soldier, he took his sword and cut his cloak in two to help clothe a poor man he encountered on the road. That night, Jesus appeared to him in a dream and revealed that he had been disguised as that man! Through the intercession of St. Martin, may we remember and care for not only our veterans but also for our brothers and sisters who are poor. 

Another lesson of history is that it is the poor who suffer the most from the scourges of war. The greatest thing that we can do to help them is to work for peace and for the justice that is its foundation. For that, we and our leaders need the virtues and qualities mentioned in our readings today: faith, integrity, righteousness, discipline, and forgiveness. —jc