Today is the 239th anniversary of the United States Marine Corps, founded in 1775. Tomorrow is Veterans Day, when the United States honors those who have served in its armed forces. From a Christian perspective, these annual commemorations prompted two musings.
First, Jesus loved all of God's children; we are the branches and he is the vine. The Marine Corps emphasizes from boot camp forward, Once a Marine, always a Marine. In other words, being a Marine (they always capitalize the word) means being a Somebody who belongs to a group larger than self. More broadly, Veterans Day calls us to honor those who have defended our freedoms; we honor them best not with words (Thanks for your service) but with genuine caring through adequate healthcare, pensions, etc. The high rates of homelessness and alcoholism among veterans reflect the large number with invisible wounds whom we too often forget are branches just as we are. Honoring veterans should not be an annual responsibility but a daily privilege. Similarly, being a human means being a Somebody who belongs to a group larger than self.
Second, Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers. The image included with this post is of the Iwo Jima Monument, a WWII victory against the Japanese in which triumphant Marines (one Caucasian, one Native American, and one Afro-American) plant the symbol of freedom atop Mt. Suribachi. Thirty years ago, I saw Iwo Jima. I could see no signs of life, only the rusting hulks of tanks and landing craft. The island was a stark reminder that while war may occasionally be necessary, war never solves our problems. At best, a necessary war creates an opportunity to build peace. Since WWII, the US has sadly become increasingly militaristic, looking to warfighting rather than peacemaking to solve problems. The most recent US misadventure has slowly begun to expand, from airstrikes against the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to inserting ground personnel to advise and to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting against ISIS. The US cannot end this conflict militarily; no matter the extent of any military defeat inflicted on ISIS, it will do little to resolve the underlying problems or to end the violence in that area permanently. Be of good courage; pray for peace; and work to end violence that God will bless you as a peacemaker.