November 11th is Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day, or in this great nation of ours Veterans' Day. The date marked the end of the great war (WWI) at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - thus the significance of the date. We remember with deep gratitude the service and sacrifice of countless men and women over the years to the mostly noble causes to which their nation called them to serve. Their heroism, their courage, their sacrifice - while not always recognized and acknowledged at the time (I am of the Vietnam era) - are being recognized more and more in recent years. No matter which war or which period of peacetime in which they served, they honor this nation. It has become a part of my interaction with a veteran or a member of the armed services to thank them for their service.
Veterans' Day falls on the feast of Saint Martin of Tours, a man who was a soldier before encountering Christ and thus a veteran of the Roman army. He died in 397 after serving as the Bishop of Tours (in France). His encounter with Christ prompted him, as it did so many others, to lay down the sword and take up the banner of Christ. We have many soldier/saints in our history: people like Sebastian who became a conscientious objector and died by arrow in 288 because of that fact; Francis of Assisi, who longed to be a soldier in the late 1100's but was a failure at the vocation, to become instead a champion for the cause of peace in a totally different way; Joan of Arc, the maid of Orleans, who donned armor and fought for France and died in 1431; Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, a successful soldier who became a soldier for Christ after laying down the sword. And don't forget Michael, the Archangel and George.
War and conflict are sometimes necessary evils and are always hell. To those who have experienced this hell and confronted this evil in the name of justice and peace, we thank you and entrust you to the Prince of Peace and the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ. Whether at war or at peace it is his banner that we hold high, for that banner, and all that it stands for, is greater than every nation, every human cause and every other alliance. My Dad was a veteran of WWII and on this Veterans' Day (and always) I am very proud of his service.