I have noticed in recent years a heightened attention to Veterans Day compared to what I remember in my youth. Perhaps it’s because the length of the current two wars has given us all opportunity to personally know someone who is currently serving in the military. Or maybe it’s because our 9/11 generation has a heightened awareness of the present dangers to our life and liberty. It may just be that I am older and more mature, and as a result of more awareness and appreciation for those who sacrificed to allow me to live the life I have. In any case, I have found myself increasingly moved by the lives and stories of those who served in the armed services.
I am the son of a WWII vet who was a bombsquad sergeant who fought in the sewers of Italy. I had an uncle who was at Normandy and Iwo Jima. And I am named after an uncle who died fighting in Italy at age 18 when he stepped on a land mine. I am also blessed to have a brother, a brother-in-law, and nieces and nephews who have served.
When I reflect on their service I often am reminded of the last scene in the movie Saving Private Ryan. Though the characters are fictional, their stories accurately reflect the expeiences of veterans in that war. It reminds us of the debt we owe those who have served and now serve:
Honor and sacrifice are intrinsically linked. As a Christian I honor God for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. As a child I honor my parents who sacrificed time and resources to raise me. And as the beneficiary of great freedom and prosperity I honor the men and women who gave their time, their strength and their lives so I could enjoy the life I have. That is what I think it means when the dying Captain John H. Miller tells Private Ryan to earn what he has been given; it means to live a life worthy of the sacrifice of others.
It is an obligation we all have on this Veterans day.