Some of the most significant pictures I keep of my father are those where he is in his WWII uniform. The first is the wedding picture of my mother and my father. In 1943, he was deployed state-side, and he wore his uniform when they were married.
The next significant picture I have of him in uniform is outside of our family home in 1944, carrying me across the street to Sacred Heart Church in Newark, New Jersey, the predecessor to the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, for my baptism.
As a veteran of WWII, my father always had great respect for the U.S. Army and the place of our military in keeping our democracy free; while at the same time being a beacon of light for the rest of the world because of our democratic principles.
On November 11th, we celebrated Veterans Day this year. Unfortunately, for many, this day is just another day off from work, another holiday weekend. For those who understand, its true purpose is to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country and for world peace.
The Second World War should have taught us many lessons; however, it seems that the world has, unfortunately, forgotten the consequences of war.
Several years ago, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, affirmed this truth in a homily at the American cemetery in Nettuno outside of Rome.
He said, “What comes to mind is that elderly woman who — looking at the ruins of Hiroshima, with wise but very painful resignation, with that mournful resignation that women are able to experience, because it is their charism — said: ‘Men do everything possible to declare and wage war, and in the end they destroy themselves’.”
How important it is that we recognize that the military is not only for defense and offense, but also an instrument of peacemaking in the world. How important it is that we recognize this on Veterans Day when we remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
This day occurs each year during the month of November when we also remember all of the souls of the faithfully departed.
We recognize that the communion of saints binds us together with those who await glory and those who already experience God’s full love and presence.
This month provides us with a good opportunity to pray for all of the deceased, and in a special way all those who have given their lives for the sake of others: the numerous martyrs of this century and the last century, the many lives lost in not only our own military, but also the militaries of other nations.
The lesson we need to learn is that peacemaking is much more important than making war. The cost of making peace may at times exceed the cost of war as there is so much that needs to be sacrificed in order to bring about peace among nations.
We should use Veterans Day as a moment of reflection so that we can properly understand the role of the military in the defense of democracy and the sacrifices made on behalf of so few for the good of so many.
On Veterans Day, as a nation, we put out into the deep memory of past military victories and losses and the loss of life and limb. The lessons of the past should enable us to seek a better future for the world and especially for all those who serve our country by their commitment.