On Thursday, 11 November, America honors military men and women who served their country. Veterans Day pays tribute to all veterans – those who have passed away and the 19 million living today.
The 11 November date marks the end of World War I in 1918, on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” By 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor veterans from all America’s wars. He requested Americans “remember the sacrifices” of so many who “fought…valiantly on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores,” in order “to preserve our heritage of freedom.”
We can learn much from veterans. How they fought selflessly and tirelessly for our Nation. How they pushed through wartime fears and challenges. How their efforts catapulted wars toward victory. By learning these lessons, we can apply them wherever the Lord has placed us to do His Kingdom work.
The Bible reminds us that spiritual warfare exists, “for our battle is not against flesh and blood” but “against the powers of this dark world.” President Ronald Reagan spoke of this truth when he warned about “sin and evil in the world” and challenged Americans to rely on “Scripture and the Lord Jesus” to “oppose it with all our might.”
But, how do we oppose spiritual warfare? How do we overcome fear? How do we endure? Through the words of veterans, we can learn how to combat darkness.
Stand firm. During the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine served as a general’s assistant and wrote articles still read today. He warned against “sunshine patriot[s]” not up to the work required to conquer “tyranny,” because warfare will “try men’s souls.” Offering hope, he said “the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” This is similar to Venerable Bede when he speaks of the martyrs in the homily read for the feast of All Saints that we just celebrated: “as the dreader grew the battle, so the grander grew the fighters, and the triumph of martyrdom waxed the more incisive by the multiplicity of suffering, and the heavier the torment the heavier the prize.” I am reminded of what St. Paul wrote about spiritual warfare, urging us to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power,” for only in God’s strength can we “stand firm” with faithful fortitude.
Focus on mission not fear. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the Civil War’s first all-black regiment, had a reputation for daring bravery. An unnamed private wrote, “God is for the right; we have no need to fear.” The regiment did not allow fear to eclipse God and mission. We must remain just as steadfast and heed St. Catherine of Siena’s warning to “not be silent through fear.” The Lord has placed each in a unique position – or battlespace – to push against wickedness. Focus on what God wants you to do. Trust He will give you the grace to proceed.
Persevere. World War I saw a high number of deaths due to brutal trench warfare. My husband’s grandfather, James Collins, providentially survived despite being shot three times in the chest; he tasted metallic bullets the rest of his life. Sergeant Samuel Marcus said the German “barrage of [mustard] gas and shell fire” felt like “hell,” and “nothing [will] ever seem hard to me after what I have gone through.” When we feel vanquished by spiritual battle, may we remember Sergeant Marcus and keep moving forward with equal tenacity, for as St. Catherine of Siena encouraged, “nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”
Faith and prayer. Private Clair Galdonik, with the 359th Infantry, saw D-Day action in World War II. Some units had 90% wounded or killed in only minutes. Private Galdonik knew the dauting battle that awaited and “spent much time in prayer.” Decades later, Pope St. John Paul, II also pointed to prayer when he boldly visited Poland in the midst of Communism’s tyrannical and anti-faith iron grip. He urged the Polish toward “ardent prayer,” inspiring them to “be strong with the strength that comes from faith.” Years of prayer finally led to Communism’s downfall. God hears our pleas to counter today’s spiritual battles. He will answer those prayers as well.
Take courage. I spent a year in the Iraqi warzone as a civilian. From our small outpost south of Baghdad, we lived close to where the Bible hero, Daniel, demonstrated courageous faith. One evening, under threat of more enemy attacks, a young American fighter told me the definition of courage – moving forward despite being afraid. He quoted Psalm 91. God is our “fortress,” and “will deliver [us] from the snare,” for we “find refuge…under His wings.” Follow Daniel’s example, take courage and stand, because the Lord “will command His angels…to guard you.”
These veteran heroes stood firm for good and right. Conviction carried them to battle. They persevered no matter how tough. They followed commanders’ orders. Although fear hung in the air, veterans took courage and pushed forward one step at a time to achieve their mission. Through it all, they kept godly faith and prayed.
Veterans impart vital lessons, especially as spiritual battles rage around us. A children’s Christian song describes perfectly this reality: “I may never march in the infantry…shoot the artillery…or zoom o’er the enemy, but I’m in the Lord’s army.” As part of God’s army, we must guard our faith while contending in the battle where the Lord has put us. From veterans, we learn mission focus, perseverance, courage – and most importantly – godly faith and prayer, so we can stand “strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”
We may become disheartened by “the powers of this dark world,” for the evil one is indeed “involved in spiritual warfare.” But, take heart. Pope St. John Paul, II reminds us that God, through the Holy Spirit and His powerful angels, resolutely stays “more involved” in this battle. So, let us follow our Mighty Commander as we stand firm with faithful fortitude. The Lord will help us persevere, guide us past the miry pit, deliver us from the snare, and Psalm 91 promises we will “see the…wicked…punish[ed].” Of this we can be certain, God will give the ultimate victory.
On Veterans Day – and every day – thank a veteran and a veteran’s family. Their duty, determination, and selfless dedication help ensure we remain the land of the free and home of the brave while also teaching us how to engage in the Heavenly realm.