This blog post is dedicated to my Dad (Mike Mennen), Uncle Dave Smith, Uncle Denny Smith, Uncle George Kenworthy, Uncle Joe Webb, Uncle Kent Stookey, Grandpa Barney Smith, Grandpa John Webb, and Cousin Ted Samuels. Thank you for your service to our country. We are all deeply grateful.
I was raised in a family that marked holidays such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day with a high level of respect and reverence. My family knew all too well what price a soldier pays to protect our freedom and serve our great country. A number of my family members served, and my Uncle Dave paid the ultimate price – sacrificing his life in a rice paddy in a land far away so that others in his unit would live, and so that you and I can enjoy our freedom today. I attended countless memorial services and watched as my Mom would tear up at the sound of taps all those years later. I was forever impacted and to this day keep a rubbing of my Uncle Dave’s name from the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. taped to my desk as a somber reminder that I should not waste one minute of my life. My family has experienced firsthand that freedom isn’t free.
I never met my Uncle Dave, but I have always felt a connection to him. I suppose that’s largely because my family has done an incredible job keeping his memory alive. The pain of his loss never went away. This past Memorial Day the local newspaper did an extensive piece on my family and titled it “Caretakers of a Memory”. I couldn’t think of a better way to describe the way that my family has paid homage to the sacrifice that Dave made. I will make sure my children, and my grandchildren hear his story, and the story of my other family members who bravely and selflessly served. It’s a part of our history – and for that I am both proud and humbled.
As I think about the hundreds of thousands of veterans both past present and future I am reminded that many paid the ultimate price, and many more return from the battlefield with a disability that they will carry the rest of their lives. I am especially mindful of the countless men and women who come home with a hidden disability and the stigma that comes with it. Many will suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, and other Mental Health Issues. Sadly many don’t get the help, support, or compassion that they deserve and desperately need. I wonder what we (the Church) could do to reach out to these brave soldiers and their families to come alongside them as they make the transition back to the civilian life? It doesn’t have to be some big elaborate program – it can be as easy as watching their kids so they can take time to reconnect with their spouses. Perhaps we host support groups for veterans to come and share and encourage one another? It can be as simple as throwing an extra pot roast in the crock pot and dropping it off at their house on a random Tuesday. It seems we could really honor our soldiers by truly welcoming them back into our communities and loving them through the rough patches that they may encounter. The greatest thing we can do is to seek to respect and understand. If that’s not Inclusion Ministry – I don’t know what is. It seems a ripe mission field to me.
So today in honor of Veteran’s Day – thank a soldier. But take it a step further – thank their families too, and do something tangible to give back. To those of you who have served our country or who have a loved one who is serving – THANK YOU. Words cannot express my sincere heartfelt gratitude. I give you my word your service will not be forgotten and my freedom will never be taken for granted.
With Great Respect – Happy Veteran’s Day!