Friday, November 12, 2010

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month... Honoring our Nation's Heroes

On November 11th, 1918, the Allied nations of World War I and Germany declared an armistice, a temporary cessation of some of the most brutal fighting the world had ever known in order that peace terms could be considered. After four years of bloodshed, a ceasefire was declared on the Western Front and America rejoiced. A year later, on November 11th, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11th to be Armistice Day:

"To us in America, the reflections of armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations." 

Throughout the country business would be suspended for a two minute period beginning at 11 A.M., as the nation remembered the lives sacrificed in what is still often called The Great War - numbers estimated by some to be nearly twenty million. Twenty million husbands, fathers, sons, innocent women and children and grandparents. In 1938, November 11 was officially declared a legal holiday honoring veterans of World War I, and "dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day.'"

In 1954, after having been through both World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress -- at the urging of the veterans service organizations -- amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

About two weeks ago we started talking to Chloe about what it means to be a veteran, and by extension, what it means to be an American. We're quite a patriotic family, so our kids have known the Pledge of Allegiance, My Country 'Tis of Thee, and America the Beautiful since they could recite the alphabet, but it occurred to us that they didn't have much of an understanding of the true blessing of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Did you know, for example, that in Germany it is illegal to homeschool? In Iran, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea there is no religious freedom? These wonderful freedoms we enjoy were achieved and protected at great cost, and because of great personal sacrifice. We want our children to understand in time the great privilege of being an American, and the importance of honoring those who have bravely served so that we may live this life. We wrote a few special letters, made a few sweet treats, and practiced what we wanted to say...

We didn't need to travel far to find our heroes. They're living all around us.

My Dad served in the Marine Corps. He played the trumpet and did reconnaissance at Pearl Harbor. It was hard, often back-breaking work, he was a long way from home, and he was really just a boy - the age when most boys in our community today are gleefully heading off to college to go to fraternity parties and goof around for four years.

My Dad is the most honorable, hard-working, humble man I have ever known. In many ways I think his years spent serving his country helped shape him into the father and role model he has always been for my sisters and I.

Unless it's raining or snowing, there is never a time when the American flag is not flying at my parents' house.

Ken Carlson is a true local hero... and he also happens to be the father of a dear friend of mine. He grew up in a little town in Pennsylvania with dreams of attending The United States Military Academy at West Point... about 12,000 people apply to West Point every year; between 1150 and 1200 get in. Ken was one of few who was good enough to be accepted, and he went on to serve his country in the United States Army during the Vietnam War, and then in the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation until he retired.

Every year Ken speaks at our church on Memorial Day, and it is one of my favorite services all year. It's a time when our church family takes a morning to honor our local veterans and reflect on the freedoms that have been bought at such a high price for us, both as Americans and as followers of Christ. It's a chance to consider my life, my ambitions, and the way I'm spending my time. How am I honoring those Americans who have sacrificed for me? How am I honoring Christ?

Who are your heroes? Have you thanked them? If you have five extra minutes, check out this link:

It's a beautiful song and video.

1 comment:

  1. Wow...such a powerful testimony and photo journal to accompany it. Thank you for the stories and challenge...