Various countries around the world have their own unique ways to honor their veterans – men and women who have expressed courage, strength, selflessness, and great love in service to their country. For instance, the United States, Britain, Canada, and Australia each set aside a time in November to celebrate their veterans.
One time, on a flight home to Boston, I struck up a conversation with a former US Marine Corps commander who served in the Vietnam War. He affectionately referred to his combat unit as “his boys” and said he was fierce about keeping them safe. For several years during his service he lived on just two hours of sleep every night, only shutting his eyes at the break of dawn.
That commander’s description of care for his troops reminded me of the deep connection between a parent and child, and I came away from that conversation with a renewed appreciation for veterans and their dedicated service.
Armed combat certainly tests one’s faith. In wartime, many – including those on the front lines and those supporting them back home – have found that prayer becomes a lifeline. My flight companion experienced this. He said that even without a church building or a pastor, he knew he could reach God, and today he still keeps a regular “appointment” with the Divine. It doesn’t matter where this communing takes place, he told me. It’s what got him through that difficult time of war and, he feels, brought him safely home.
Though I’ve never been in combat, I could relate to this idea. I like to think of prayer as affirming the power of God, good, that is constantly in operation. It acknowledges God’s presence as our divine Parent, always caring for us. Turning to God can provide inspiration that brings needed comfort and protection in the face of fear or danger.
One of the most oft-repeated psalms in the Bible was written by a man named David, himself a warrior. It provides an inside glimpse into his own talks with God. One verse says: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalms 23:4, New King James Version).
David’s confidence in God’s protection, even in the worst of circumstances, wasn’t a theoretical concept to him, but was as practical as a child relying on a parent for safety and comfort. The founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, shed spiritual light on this psalm by referring to God as divine Love itself: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [Love] is with me; [Love’s] rod and [Love’s] staff they comfort me” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 578).
Many veterans who have suffered pain, illness, or loss due to combat continue to seek out that deeper healing love long after they have finished their military service. We can affirm that this same divine Love is always present and available, to bring healing and comfort. No one can ever be separated from God, the divine Life that holds all of its creation safe in its care. Even a small understanding of this spiritual fact can bring freedom from injuries – whether physical or mental – and from the grip of sorrow or frightening images of death.
In addition to doing whatever we can to help veterans in need, we can offer crucial spiritual support, both for those on active duty and those who have long since ended their military service. We can prayerfully know that the tender Christ – God’s love – is reaching them, unimpeded by time and space, with healing effect.