A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Prayers for Peace November 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 2:19 am
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Veteran’s Day is a mixed bag for me as an Air Force brat. I was raised on military bases at the height of the Cold War with a strong sense of patriotism. “God, family and country” was a familiar phrase for me and my sister and perhaps those three things even became a bit conflated somehow. I didn’t know anything else growing up than my dad (and most men-not many women yet) in uniform and I was (and still am) always proud that my dad served in the military, protecting democracy, and the right for people to express themselves anyway they might choose. And I believe that these things are important: people should be free to make decisions for themselves, free to be safe from being harmed, free live however they choose.
And the often quoted words of “Freedom isn’t free” is true-our military service men and women and their families pay a high price. Long deployments away from their spouses and children, low pay (many of the lower ranking personnel are on food assistance), frequent moves, high levels of stress and for our soldiers returning from combat the all too frequent PTSD. On top of that, when soldiers leave the military, they often have a difficult time finding a job. Yes, they do get the GI Bill to help pay for education but many don’t because of other extenuating circumstances. It’s hard to focus on English Literature or computer programming when you are still fighting a war, with others and yourself, in your head or in your heart.
Then you have the major societal shift since WWII of how we view our military personnel. Beginning with the Vietnam War, our young people returning home broken, bruised and battered, were not welcomed with open arms, parades and apple pie, but became pawns in national political conversation where there were only two sides: pro war or anti-military. This dualism left real human beings caught in a different kind of cross-fire-that of social isolation, being the target of US government policy backlash and emotional damage.
I was mostly protected from this controversy growing up until we moved to Minot AFB, ND. I was in the sixth grade when we moved there and the base had its own elementary and middle school. But when it came time for high school and all of the high school kids were all bused several miles every day into town (the base was several miles north of town) to attend the one high school in Minot. I had a couple of teachers who held real animosity for the military and weren’t concerned at all about taking it out on some unsuspecting teenagers. Now it was nothing dramatic but just subtle stuff like snarky comments about our dads being killers or openly talking about how you can’t trust military kids because we have lived everywhere and are “too worldly.” There was some racism mixed in with this as well, as Minot is nearly 100% white and many military children are not. I remember that military kids were told that between passing periods or before/after school we could not be in groups of larger than three for fear of what we might do as a large group. Let’s just say 9th grade was not my favorite year of high school.
We moved to Offutt AFB, NE after my ninth grade year but that experience stayed with me. After graduating college and becoming a “civilian” I became more cognizant of how our military are treated in the culture at large, particularly with our recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is a sense from people who don’t have much personal experience with the military that to say “we don’t support war but support the men and women who serve” is the answer and is a way to be supportive. But to me, it seems hollow and off point.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t support war of any kind. Again, I grew up in the Cold War and have witnessed enough fear and paranoia to last a lifetime. I believe that God wants Shalom peace for us all-the kind of wholeness, freedom and love that doesn’t infringe on anyone else and only connects us all to one another as God’s beloved people. Hurting one another in anyway is never the answer. But I have seen on Facebook all day long today “Thank you veterans!” or “We are grateful!” And it bugs me. We act like this a holiday-buy a gift and make sure your Facebook reflects the pithy sentiment of the day. Gratitude is not even what these men and women want-they joined the military because they believe in something bigger than themselves. They serve because they understand the complexity of the brokenness and the desperate need for community of humanity and want to do something about it. They serve because they believe that the nay sayers have a right to oppose what they do. Is the military the answer to all of these complexities? No, because it is made up of the same broken people that make up the civilian population as well. My dad served for 26 years including during the Vietnam War (stationed on Guam) and hates war. Never wants to see a young person go to war, be injured or killed in war. He was on a missile crew when I was little with his finger literally on the “button” in a silo in WY and NE and was a nuclear missile squadron commander in Minot (yeah and the school still messed with me-not too bright?) and worked everyday to make sure that we never went to war. Counter intuitive? Maybe, but such is the complex paradox of life in or out of the military.
No one wants war, hardship or strife but we live in a broken world and we address those things as best we can with our own broken humanity. Many veterans would not say that they think of today as “Happy Veteran’s Day,” as there is nothing happy about war or needing instruments of war. If we want to support and affirm our military-a day of saying “thank you” and then ignoring or worse yet, not offering the resources they need to be healthy and whole the other 364 days of the year is denying their connection to our community, to each of us and to our God who loves and cares for us all. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think of this as patriotism as much as I do living my faith in the God who redeems, connects, sustains, forgives, loves and calls us to do the same.
So today I don’t say Happy Veteran’s Day or “thank you” to my dad, grandfathers living and deceased, cousins and friends in the armed forces but I say a prayer for us all as today should be a day to pray for peace: “God of peace, may your love and grace enfold us all. May your Shalom be revealed in our world and may we all truly live as your beloved people. In the name of Jesus, who knew pain, death and destruction and revealed mercy, peace and new life for all, amen.

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