Today the United States celebrates Veterans Day, an annual holiday honoring veterans of the U.S. armed services. November 11th was first celebrated as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919. Major hostilities of World War I were formally halted on the 11th hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918…adding even more special significance to the fact that today’s date is 11.11.11. The holiday was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.
If you surf the Internet a little bit you can find all manner of interesting trivia about Veterans Day, such as the official spelling. Veteran’s Day and Veterans’ Day are both often used, but the U.S. government has declared that the attributive (no apostrophe) rather than the possessive case is the official spelling. Also, there are some who celebrate Veterans Day with a meal of ravioli, since President Woodrow Wilson helped White House cooks prepare and serve ravioli to two thousand soldiers at the end of World War I. Why ravioli? Apparently it had just become a common dish in U.S. kitchens thanks to advances in commercial canning.
Ultimately, of course, the purpose of Veterans Day is to remember those who have served in the military, as well as those who are serving. According to Wikipedia there are nearly 25 million veterans in the U.S. My father served in the Navy, and my grandfather served in the army. I have a step-nephew in the Marines, about to deploy for his second tour in Afghanistan. I suspect there are very few U.S. citizens who do not have a veteran in the family (past and/or present) or know a veteran or active duty member of the military.
I was blessed to grow up in a time marked mostly by peace. The Vietnam War was over by the time I was born, and the U.S. was not actively involved in any major conflicts until Desert Storm, when I was in high school. That was such a short-lived and decisive action for the U.S. that even that did not result in a vastly increased demand for men and women in the military. It was not until 9.11 and the resulting (and continuing) war on terror that the U.S. has been once again involved in lasting military operations. I consider myself blessed not to have been subject to a military draft, but I also would like to think that I would willingly serve in the military had my services ever been needed. I have tremendous respect and appreciation for the men and women who voluntarily serve in our armed forces. The sacrifices that they make–the grueling training, the time away from family, the deployment to areas of danger and the responsibilities that go with such deployment, the often-thankless jobs that are part of serving, and so on–are incredible. The most incredible thing about an all-volunteer military is that those men and women do not have to serve. They willingly enlist, and they do so to defend our country, our freedom, and the idea of representative democracy. Many of them do it because they love this nation, and because they are willing to potentially make the ultimate sacrifice because of that love. America is a great nation and a free nation thanks in no small part to the veterans of the U.S. military.
There is, of course, another freedom that I enjoy as a born again Christian, and that is freedom in Christ and freedom through Christ. Through Christ I have freedom from sin and freedom from an eternity separated from God. In Christ I have freedom from the law…there is no list of requirements I have to try to keep. (Thankfully, since no one could ever keep them!) And this freedom is the result of a voluntary sacrifice, too. God did not have to send His Son, and Jesus did not have to die on that cross on Calvary. His sacrifice was voluntary, and made on my behalf–and yours–motivated by His love. Jesus “took the hill,” and sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for my sin. When He arose three days later He had defeated death. The war was over. There are still battles–daily ones, in fact. And I must remember that I wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers of darkness and evil. But I do not fight alone, because the Holy Spirit is with me and empowers me to stand and fight. And the best news of all, to quote an old song, is that “I’ve read the back of the book, and we win!”