Memo from Pastor Erickson
Nov. 11 has been our day, our opportunity, to again commit to support and honor our servicemen and women, past and present. The celebration has been broadened to include past and present members of the service community in our land.
President Woodrow Wilson designated the day the armistice was signed, Nov. 11, as the day to honor our veterans to commemorate the end of World War I in 1918.
Our mission is to support and honor each of them on Veterans Day.
In our time, during and after Korea and Vietnam, some folks took out their anger on vets rather than the people in Washington. To this day, the division continues. Some feel we should have kept on talking to help people on both sides make their point and find their own way to live at peace with their neighbors. Keeping the peace is best when the parties decide the way they will heal their differences and move on. Too often, when a third party gets into the mix, the two ‘big boys’ draw lines in the sand as the basis of a peace treaty for terms that fit their geo-political agendas without regard for the country in the middle. The needs and desires of those people are ignored, they become the pawn—just a political trophy traded from time to time as a token for one or the other.
None of the veterans I know were at the table in those discussions, but had been in harm’s way. We take none of this lightly. There has been too much harm in body and soul to just cast the subject aside, too much harm to body and soul for each of us, vets and the rest of us.
Some vets come home and tell great stories about good and bad times. Some grow silent when anything close wafts into the conversation. We must honor people, even though their reactions to their experiences differ. Recall, we honor and support our veterans.
In quite a different scenario, there are stories of people who, even for a moment, become real and ordinary people with kids and families. We were on tour of Palestine. Our guide took us to a ‘checkpoint’ between Palestine and the Jewish sector. There were soldiers on each side of the fence with rifles at their sides. There was a wall (they are thought to be important by some). For about a hundred feet there was only a chain link fence with a wide gate in the middle of the road now closed. There was a line of cars along the road, family or friends who came to pick up their person.
A stream of people came down the road and passed through the gate. None showed papers nor were detained. The guards were far from the gate. On one side, people wanted to work. On the other side, there were jobs.
Our guide took us to another site. Along that border there were tanks and armored vehicles. At the moment the guns were silent, but from time to time, it was a shooting war.
There is another story. The writer set the scene: Soldiers in trenches, shooting enemies across the way. Their mission was to get the advantage, the enemy would be forced to retreat.
It was Christmas, the guns went silent. After a while on one side, someone waved a white flag (usually a sign of surrender). After a while someone on the other side did the same. According to the story teller, they broke out of their trenches and ate Christmas dinner together. Then someone began to sing a Christmas carol. Others joined in and they sang and sang. The tunes were the same, they all knew the tunes and the words sounded different. Some sang in German, someone English.
It may never have happened that way, but it is a story we need to hear in the middle of a war or after an election. We are all people who share a bit of space in a large world. We would rather live in a time of peace than war. It is clear, peace is not easy to achieve or maintain. We have quite enough vets. Seldom are reasons to put our youth in harm’s way.
This is a great time of the year. No one has told me how we share our turkey, potatoes and gravy via Zoom. We work and associate in a virtual reality. Perhaps it is a time to be thankful for a roof over our heads, a table around which we gather with joy and peace, in a land where votes are counted.
Nov. 11 is a reminder of our opportunity to honor and support each other, particularly those who have given themselves to serve, past and present.
George V. Erickson is a retired Presbyterian minister and a resident of Watsonville. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of The Pajaronian.