America has 25 million living veterans, and today we honor them, and those who have died in America’s defense, with furniture sales, and clothing sales, and jewelry sales. And like virtually every other day which was once significant, Veterans’ Day is relegated to a day of merchandise and near meaninglessness.
As a Christian I Am Offended
A brief aside a television commercial which aired on a national cable channel this week talked about celebrating “Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the Holidays.”
As a Christian I am offended.
If I were a Jew, I would be offended.
Ghosts and goblins have a holiday and we can say, “Halloween.” We still have a national day of “Thanksgiving,” although it is now mostly the day before the biggest sales day of the year. But the day of our Savior’s birth and the celebration of Chanukah are “the Holidays.” Good grief!
Senate Resolution 143, passed on August 3, 2001, designated the week of November 11 as “National Veterans Awareness Week.” In response, Anthony J. Principi, Secretary of Veterans' Affairs, prepared a packet that school teachers could use in their classrooms. That material outlined a brief history of Veterans' Day:
“Raymond Weeks of Birmingham, Alabama, organized a ‘Veterans' Day’ parade for that city on November 11, 1947, to honor all of America’s veterans for their loyal service. Later, US Representative Edward H. Rees of Kansas proposed legislation changing Armistice Day to Veterans' Day to honor all those who have served America in all wars. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans' Day. From 1968 until 1978, the day honoring America’s veterans was celebrated on the fourth Monday in October, but was returned to its original day because of the historic and patriotic significance of November 11.”
A Long Line of Patriots
On November 11, 1921, an American soldier, his name “known but to God,” was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony which consecrated a burial site for the Unknown Soldier took place on the anniversary of the armistice which ended World War I (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918).
“If the idealistic hope had been realized that World War I was ‘the war to end all wars,’ November 11 might still be called Armistice Day,” but World War II destroyed that dream, and another 400,000 American servicemen died.
And now we are engaged in another war, a very different kind of war than America has ever fought. It is a war which will decide whether a nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, can long endure. On August 31, responding to the Senate proclamation, in prophetic ways he could never have imagined, President George W. Bush wrote from the White House, “In defense of freedom [veterans] have cleared the seas, charged the hills, and covered the skies. They have never let us down.
“Through their service, our veterans have joined a long line of patriots willing to risk all to preserve our freedom and the American way of life. Many have died in defense of this country, and we cannot measure the value of the freedoms secured by their supreme sacrifices. While America can never repay the debt it owes to its veterans, we can express our gratitude by remembering their valiant service.”
In 1780, the American patriot Thomas Paine wrote about summer soldiers and sunshine patriots. Their next-of-kin are, sadly, giving us disservice today. Our president tells us the war against terror will be long, significant victories may not be seen immediately, some may not be publicly noticed at all, and we rallied around the flag. Then within weeks, led by attention-deficit-disordered congresspersons and news media, the moaning and groaning started.
Summer Soldiers and Sunshine Patriots
“These,” Paine wrote prophetically to this post-September 11 world, “are times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
Stand easy because of the sacrifices of America’s veterans, the living, and the dead, and those who will yet give the last full measure of devotion.
To think that we can honor those men and women with a half-price furniture sale dishonors them. And us.
(David Sisler's newspaper column, Not For Sunday Only, is in its 14th year of weekly publication. Not for Sunday Only is based on news events, sports, popular songs, motion pictures and personal glimpses. The message is: the Christian faith is an everyday happening it is not for Sunday only. The columns are thoroughly researched, and never indicate denominational bias. For reprint permission, or to subscribe to Not For Sunday Only, contact Mr. Sisler at firstname.lastname@example.org.)