I'm a veteran. But when this day rolls around each year, I never think of it as having anything to do with me. Perhaps that's because my own service was, from a military point of view, unmemorable.
The Army drafted me as the war in Vietnam wound down and I knew the odds of my seeing combat were remote. I never left US soil. So, saying I'm a veteran feels to me like saying I'm an earthling. It's true, but neither label tells me anything distinctive or insightful about myself.
When it comes to my veteran friends, on the other hand, it's a different matter.
As this day arrives, I think of them – a handful of friends and relatives who had much different, and in some cases far more harrowing, experiences than I had.
And I find myself filling with gratitude for their willingness to serve, and for the willingness of the men and women in uniform today to serve.
Whether I agree with US involvement in a past war or our participation in the present conflict is beside the point. Here was – here is – the willingness to serve, to put everything at risk; if necessary, to make the ultimate sacrifice. And that I want to honor.
I recall Glen, a lifelong friend whose service as a marine during the height of Vietnam included two of the grittiest tours of duty imaginable. I cannot fathom what it must have been like to endure the chaotic insanity of battle, with the closest of marines falling all around him. He did that, again and again. Yet, so far as I can tell, he did it without becoming hate-filled or bitter.
One Christmas while Glen was still serving in Vietnam, his family sent a Christmas card. It was a photo of him crouched on a patch of dirt, surrounded by a gathering of Vietnamese kids. A circle in the dirt, perhaps drawn by someone's finger, lay at the center of them all. Glen and the kids were playing marbles together. The message of "Peace on earth" couldn't have been better captured.
Now, when I think of Veterans' Day and of all that veterans have done for the rest of us, I don't think solely of the military and guns, but also of marble games. I recall that the overarching purpose to their service is not war. It is peace.
A single instance of brotherhood, of sharing a few random moments of friendship around a circle in the dirt, hints to me of a larger circle of brotherhood. A circle that includes all humanity. That, I am certain, has a divine basis.
For me, this gets to the heart of what it's all about. On this day I want to honor those who've served. But even more, I want to glimpse more of where courage comes from. Where brotherhood comes from and where peace itself originates.
I believe they all originate with the God who is the Father of us all, who gives us the basis for caring for one another and being at peace with one another. The Bible says, "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?" (Mal. 2:10).
To truly see this, and to hug it close in prayer, has to give meaning to the service of every veteran. It has to bring the day closer when there is war no more.
I can't think of a better way to honor veterans than to recall that the peace, which was and is their ultimate aim, has a sure, divine basis, an everlasting foundation.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her primary work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established" (p. 467).
"It should be thoroughly understood." That's the act of prayer I'm going to commit to today. That's the way I'm going to honor veterans this year. I'm going to strive to glimpse, however faintly, every one of us as being in the circle of brotherhood and sisterhood, in the state of peace and friendship, which is native to us all.