This past May, I was privileged enough to be in Washington, D.C., the same weekend as the dedication of the National World War II Memorial. On the day of the dedication, I was standing next to an elderly veteran in full uniform while waiting for the Metro. A young man approached the gentleman, grabbed his hand and thanked him for his service to our country. It was a simple gesture, but it brought the veteran to tears.
This month, we celebrate Veterans Day as a way of saying thank you to all the men and women who have served our country in the military.
A Day to Say Thanks
Veterans Day actually has its origins in Armistice Day, the last day of fighting in World War I (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). But after World War II, the question came up of how also to honor those who had served in that war.
Representative Edwin K. Rees of Kansas suggested that Armistice Day be changed to Veterans Day, a day to honor all those who had served in the military. And so in 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill marking November 11 as Veterans Day. The date of its observance was changed in 1968, but was changed back in 1978 because of the historic significance of November 11. That date is also the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a former soldier and the patron of military chaplains.
A Catholic Connection
So by now you may be asking, “What does this have to do with me as a Catholic?” Well, according to the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (www.milarch.org), on any given day there are 1.4 million Catholics serving in the military.
You may not even know that Catholics in the military are part of their own archdiocese—the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (See Ministry in the Military: Serving Those Who Serve).
Here are some ways you and your family can show support and say thanks to all those who have served and continue to serve our country:
• Are there members of your family, parish or neighborhood currently serving in the military? Have your family “adopt” a member of the armed forces. Better yet, see if you can get your parish involved. With the holidays arriving, this may be an especially difficult time for those away from their loved ones. Send cards, letters, care packages. Make sure you check first, however, on what you may or may not send.
• Don’t forget about the families of those in the military. Offer to help out in any way that you can, such as watching the kids or even just providing a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on or a hug.
• This month, make an extra effort to pray for peace in the world, especially on November 11.
• Organize a prayer service—either at home or in your parish—for all those currently serving in the military.
• If you know any veterans, thank them for their service.
• The Military Archdiocese receives its funding through donations. Support their work by making a donation.
Next Month: Fighting the Christmas “Gimme’s”