This past week was Veterans Day. It is a day when we honor and remember those who have served to protect the nation. In our community, it has been a tradition to honor the memory of those who did not safely return to these shores after serving their country.
Since 2004, our community has had a vigil in honor of the fallen. From 2004 to 2006, we held name reading services on Veterans Day on which all the names of those who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan were read. These were important services, and meaningful to those who came, but were not reaching the numbers of people we had hoped. Beginning in 2007, our community began to erect a memorial on the quad: crosses and other markers for each U.S. serviceman and -woman who had died in the wars. Alongside the memorial were the names of those fallen. We have followed this tradition every Veterans Day since.
We fashion the memorial as a battlefield cemetery like those in France or the National Cemetery in Arlington. Rows of crosses, stars of David, crescents, and other markers, adorned and unadorned, to represent the war dead. The memorial usually crosses a path so that pedestrians walk through it, the same way they would at a cemetery, the silent witness of the markers and the names a reminder of the sacrifice made.
Remembrance is an important part of faith. Remembrance calls us back to another time, it calls us to relive that time, to place ourselves in that experience. We cannot speak dispassionately of the honor due our Veterans without recognizing the cost to the lives of their fallen comrades. Remembrance keeps us grounded.
But remembrance does not look only to the past. Remembrance helps us to look to the future. And in remembering the names of those who have died, we not only give honor to their sacrifice, but we remember the promises of God, and remembering their sacrifice helps us to hasten the day when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4)