“I’m going on an Honor Flight, would you like to go as a Guardian?,” Dad asked. That is how I spent two days in Washington DC with my Dad, along with 120 other WWII Vets and Guardians (who assist with meals, wheelchairs and as needed). It was moving to have people stop what they were doing to applaud every time we got on or off a plane, entered a building or got off a bus. I didn’t get choked up ‘till the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier turned smartly in front of Dad to enter the barracks and scraped the tap on the bottom of his shoe as he turned. It is how the Honor Guards, forbidden to salute or nod in acknowledging anyone, have chosen to honor veterans of WWII. If you visit the tomb when an Honor Flight is present listen for the scrape as the guard passes the Vets.
A few days after this newsletter arrives we will gather to celebrate the freedom and blessings we enjoy in our country. As troops return from Afghanistan we are ending the longest war our country has been involved in. Sadly, while we will be no longer at war, we seem to be at war with ourselves, a nation polarized by differing views. Perhaps the patina of age makes it seem as if our nation was of one mind during WWII. Or perhaps it was a time when the good and the right were easily discerned.
I recall another war, the early hours of the first Gulf war when Walter Cronkite, dean of American news reporters, long retired even then, said, “It is important to remember that those who support this war effort and those who oppose it are both patriotic.” His wisdom rings true today. We are a diverse nation with many views, perspectives and convictions.
As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day on July 4th, it is important to remember we share a desire for peace and justice, even though we are not of one mind as to how this is best achieved. There is no one American view, just as their is no one Christian or Muslim or Jewish view. Diversity is the hallmark of our country; it is our strength as well as a constant irritant. It is not universal agreement which makes us Americans but a commitment to the ideals that gave birth to our nation.
The holiday provides an opportunity to step back, to assess who we are, where we are going, what we are doing and what we are called to do with our lives. It is a time to recommit ourselves to the ideals our faith and country share, to work for peace, to pray for justice, too honor the worth and dignity of every person. These are the shared ideals of our faith and our country, a commitment to the worth and dignity of each person, an affirmation of each person’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Pastor Bob Chell