What Really Matters" segment. The only parameter I've been given is that it relates to Veterans Day, but I suspect the election may come up. My plan is to blog for the purpose of sorting my thoughts as radio is such a fast moving medium. Writing helps me to clarify my thoughts and this is probably a worthwhile subject--especially considering this holiday falls on a Sunday this year.
How should a pastor address the subject of Veterans Day? I know I was selected to speak on this matter often because of my unique background. The very name of this blog "SEAL Pastor" lumps my odd background together. In thinking through this, I feel that I have to address this day along two fronts through a very practical angle as a veteran and then as a pastor drawing from veteran's example in living out the Christian life.
"Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier", 2 Timothy 2:3-4 From this Bible verse, I believe there are a number of principles we can draw from as it relates to Veterans Day.
The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Before I served and started losing buddies (in training and combat) in their service to our country, I didn't really have clarity between these two holidays. Today, as I type, the difference is clear. Memorial Day is the day to remember those who gave all in their service. We, as a family, often go to Ft. Rosecrans on Memorial Day to remember the sacrifice that was made by many of my friends. Veterans Day, however, is to remember those who are serving and who have served in service of their country.
A simple, "Thank you" goes a long way. To active duty, the veteran, their spouses, and children all make significant sacrifices in service. There are so many ways to say "Thank you." So many have willingly sacrificed their personal freedoms in order to preserve them for the whole. The average civilian misses the sacrifices that the veteran makes. One significant sacrifice, in my mind, connects Veterans Day to Memorial Day. On June 26, 2003, my best friend in the SEAL teams was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. I always honor him on Memorial Day, but the sting of his death remains with me as a veteran. So many veterans have lost dear friends through training or combat. This is a great sacrifice that few understand. With every veteran there is a cloud of lost buddies who are with them in memory. We in San Diego are so blessed to have so many active duty and veterans in our midst. Be intentional with your thank you's. If you see a veteran, or active duty service member, walk up to them shake their hand and look them in the eye and say, "Thank you for your service." If you want to up your thank you, buy them a cup of coffee or treat them to lunch. Be creative, but be sure to show them your appreciation. I can't tell you how far the simple hand shake will go. I so appreciate those who have thanked me in this way over the years.
A soldier paints a picture of a focused follower. The soldier must be ready and vigilant about their commitment to their given mission. In order to maintain this level of readiness the must cut and keep clear of the clutter that hinders their calling. We as Christians have much to learn from this. When I was a SEAL, I had to have multiple sets of gear configured for a number of different types of operations ready to go at all times. The older SEAL's harped on the younger guys to have "all their loose ends taken care of" referring to things in their personal life that would affect their ability to carry out the mission. After reviewing the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, the author says, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). When I see active duty service member today, I often of the the thought, "What things am I being hindered by in my walk with God?"
As we remember and give thanks for veterans this day, let us do so intentionally and with insight. I would encourage you to be intentional about seeking out a veteran or active duty service member. Shake their hand, look them in the eye, and say, "Thank you. I appreciate your service and the sacrifice you have made for us." Look at the image of the soldier and observe their life. Examine their lifestyle as you ponder their example. They must be ready at all times...this affects every area of their lives. What lessons are there that you could apply to your own life as you walk with Christ?
To those who have served, or who are serving, I salute you!