When I was very young, my father flew jets in the Air Force and to me this made him a super hero. I was proud of my father and proud of his service.
Then when I got older and went off to college, I developed more complex feelings about his time in the military. I remember him telling me about his desire to fight in combat and I felt conflicted. I saw his desire to fight as a desire to kill and I couldn’t find that in myself. I knew he was a good man and I just couldn’t square my own desire for peace with his desire to fight.
As I’ve continued to grow and change, my view of his service has shifted again and again, eventually separating into two chambers.
One chamber is full of pride and gratitude for the dedication and service to the country, the community, and the family that had supported him. I saw his service as a willingness to sacrifice everything in order to repay the debt we all owe to those people and institutions that give us life and keep us safe.
The other chamber is full of sadness and confusion, because it’s hard for me to accept that one group people killing another group of people can possibly bring peace to the world. It is full of the sadness for the suffering that every human in wartime or peace must face in the deepest recesses of their hearts. And it’s full of confusion as to why we humans fall into such suffering and even more so how we can commit such inhuman acts in our desire to escape it.
So today as we reflect on all the veterans who have served and died in their wholehearted effort to help what they held dear, let us remember that good and evil cut through the very center of each of us.
And whether you feel that war is just or unjust, wise or unwise, hopeless or indispensable, remember that you are motivated by the same hopes, dreams, and loves of every person who has fought. I hope you will join me as we honor them while at the same time striving to end the battle of suffering in your own life and in the lives of those nearest to you.
For every war begins in that heart and that is first place you must declare peace.