Today is Veteran's Day. I'm right now sitting at JFK Airport in New York City on a layover from Boston to Raleigh-Durham for a Conference at Duke University. There are yellow balloons everywhere, probably 500 or so just within 100 feet of me, in bunches and making a huge archway. There is a troop of Boy Scouts, probably 15-20 of them here, waiting for soldiers from the New York National Guard to come in from a flight. My Facebook feed is saturated with patriotic pictures, thanks made to veterans, and yellow ribbons. People are remembering veterans today. This is of mixed emotions for me.
A problem with holidays is that we tend to reserve the designated celebration or thankfulness for those holidays. But my mother is my mother 365 days a year and not just a day in May. And it's good to be thankful on days other than November 25th. And we would do well to resolve to do well in our lives other than on the first day of the year.
So I fear that I will forget veterans tomorrow and the day after. It's likely that most of the country will as well.
I've twice now read the stat that veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are committing suicide at the rate of 17 a day.
...seventeen a day...
I didn't even know that there were that many vets to go around. (I still kind of question the statistic.)
The ongoing effects of war and the results of fighting in war are so incomprehensible to me. I truly can ONLY imagine. Stanley Hauerwas calls us to consider the difficult transitions and situations that soldiers go to in the video below.
And so I hate the wars. I hate that the most powerful nation in the world chose to fight them in the ways that she has. I hate the money that has gone into them. I hate that men and women from the United States have died by the thousands in them. I hate that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans have died, many of whom were not soldiers.
Selfishly, I hate most of all that Bobby Moscillo is dead today because of the war in Iraq.
So in a few hours I will be sitting with a group of people listening to and responding to the topic of our response to the homecoming of soldiers.
Why am I going?
Because the compassion of Christ to which I am called is for all. I'm no great futurist or sociologist, but I can imagine that there will be veterans whose lives have been drastically affected by these wars around us for decades to come. As a pastor in a small church, I expect that I will come across many of them in the coming years. Indeed, I already have.
There are a variety of ways that evil causes us to suffer. Veterans are suffering after returning home from the evils of war the likes of which I cannot imagine. Christ's call is for his followers to identify the suffering and suffer with them ("with suffering" = com - passion).
That's why I'm going.