Some 25 years ago, I told our college sophomore son, “America is a privileged nation.” He countered, “I disagree.” And I rejoined, “Son, that’s the privilege!” Since then, and in our own lifetime, our country has seen some dark days and yet some very bright hours. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves. It turns out that we don’t just live in America, but rather America also lives in us: “… crown thy good with brotherhood.”
And yet, Christians are strangers and sojourners on this earth. Aren’t we but passing through? Not one of us is staying. We look to the city whose builder is God. Our citizenship is in Heaven. We also have earthly responsibilities — duties to each other, to “Caesar” (the government), as well as to God.
Governments were ordained by God. Religion provides moral values that can make a country great. Government can provide the climate and protections that make greatness possible and sustainable. Romans 13 certainly hints that, in clashes between good and evil on this earth, duly constituted governments are the vehicles that right the wrong done to the innocent public.
And so it was, for example, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an Armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “The Great War” (for people couldn’t imagine a worse war). On each Nov. 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls, an official wreath laying ceremony is held at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., while other celebrations are held in the states.
Our Veterans Day helps focus attention on the important purpose: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good and mutual goodwill and understanding between nations. And just who are the brave men and women who serve and protect America? Some volunteered, others were drafted. They all learned how to go, and to fight, and to win.
Presently, there are 23 million living military veterans in the U.S. Our nation’s service men and women come from all walks of life. They are parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, spouses, nephews and nieces, children and grandchildren. They are friends, neighbors and coworkers, and an extraordinary part of their communities. Twenty percent of our Harding University College of Business Administration faculty, for example, are veterans.
Although we Americans often have our differences (especially during election seasons), we still join together in times of crises. Judge Felix Frankfurter provided the clarity we need: “Democracy is always a beckoning goal, not a safe harbor. For freedom is an unremitting endeavor, never a final achievement. That is why no office in the land is more important than that of being a citizen.”
Is this a great country or what? Would you remember to take time out of your busy day to thank a veteran? If so, then “Three Cheers for You … and the Red, White, and Blue!”