Disclaimer: I’m a patriotic crier. I love the United States of America, and proudly call her the greatest nation in history. So whenever I watch a patriotic movie, or serve at a veteran’s funeral, or even sing the national anthem before a Cedar Springs football game, I get misty.
I believe we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our veterans. But I also believe we may not be honoring that debt in the right way.
We usually honor our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have given “their last full measure of devotion” by playing taps at their funeral, firing a 21-gun salute, or even putting a flag in the sacred ground of their burial site every year at Memorial Day.
But what about our vets who are still living? Don’t they deserve more than just an occasional visit on Veterans Day?
In many ways, we treat Veterans Day like we do Thanksgiving Day: it’s just one day on our calendar to take care of our obligations to be grateful, and then we can continue on with business-as-usual until the next year.
Wouldn’t it be more fitting for us to treat Veterans Day—like Thanksgiving Day—as a culmination of another year full of gratitude? After all, it’s very likely that we wouldn’t even be able to enjoy our business-as-usual lives if it were not for the sacrifices of our veterans.
The Apostle Paul gives us a good pattern to follow. Four times in his letters he says, “I thank God for you every time I remember you” (Romans 1:9; Philippians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 4). In these times of thanks, he is remembering others who put their lives on the line for freedom, just as our veterans have done for us.
Here are at least three things we can learn from Paul’s thankfulness to apply to our gratitude for our veterans —
- Keep mementos of remembrance around you. Perhaps it’s an American flag, or a picture, or a Veterans Day program. Simply find something that will jog your memory frequently about the debt of gratitude we owe to our vets.
- Pray for our veterans. Paul often told his friends that when he was filled with thoughts of gratitude about them, he turned those thoughts into prayers for them.
- Turn your feelings into actions. When you see one of your mementos and say a prayer for a veteran, take it a step further. Jot a note to a vet, send an email, send flowers, or take them out to lunch. Perhaps you could invite a veteran into your home for Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter, or “adopt” a veteran on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
The point is this: Let’s not make honoring our veterans something we only do on November 11. Let’s remember them often, be thankful for them always, and turn those thoughts and gratitude into action all year long.