On this day where we honor those who gave their lives in service for our country, I can't help but think of the young men and women whose lives were cut short (in our eyes at least). I think of those young families never to be reunited on this earth, those young widow(er)s, those young children who will never know a parent. My heart aches for them as I look at my own family, my husband and children, and realize how blessed I am to be able to enjoy this time with them, and how often I take that for granted.
I think of all those with family in active duty, whatever branch, and the uncertainty they live with every day. I think of those whose loved ones have returned home, and how thankful they must be. I think of those young men and women who lost friends they have served with, the trauma, the pain, the survivor's guilt so many of them face.
I think of this world, so broken that we have need of thousands of men and women who give their lives to defend mine. I wonder what makes that necessary - is it our thirst for power? For money? For glory? Why is it necessary? I think of those people who would say that all this violence is in the name of God or religion. I think how little they must know of God if they think this is His will.
While "warriors" may invoke the name of God as their motive, I think we would do well to see what the hidden reason truly is. It could very well be a warped understanding of God and a misguided attempt to spread religion, but more often God is the scapegoat when money, power, fear, greed, or self-righteousness is the true motive.
When we know God, we know there must be another reason. God sent us Christ. Christ allows harm to come to him. Christ lays down His life, not another's. The apostles follow in his footsteps willingly sacrificing their own lives. The martyrs of the Church follow in suit. So, you see, those making war in the name of religion do not do so in honor or glory of God. It is not God's will. (Please do not take this as political commentary - war is a dirty, messy business and I haven't the energy or brainpower to dissect all the angles here.)
The men and women who lay down their lives for us in service follow in the footsteps of Christ. Whatever your politics may be, whether we feel we are justly involved or not, these men and women sacrifice their lives for the good of others at another's command. Let us pray their souls may one day rest with the Father in heaven. May those who grieve their loss be sheltered under the mantle of Our Lady who knows intimately the pain of losing a child to senseless violence and injustice. May those who remain on the battlefield be under the protection of the angels and guidance of the Spirit. St. Martin of Tours, patron of soldiers, pray for us:
Dear well-beloved Saint, you were first a soldier like your father. Converted to the Church, you became a soldier of Christ, a priest and then a Bishop of Tours. Lover of the poor, and model for pagans and Christians alike, protect our soldiers at all times. Make them strong, just, and charitable, always aiming at establishing peace on earth. Amen.
More prayers for those touched by service in the military may be found at the Archdiocese of the Military and at the Franciscan Friars, T.O.R. websites.