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Veterans Day Musings

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

There will be… glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 2:10b NASB)

Hand-lettered “SAVE” signs were placed on the left front row of folding chairs facing the large podium. On the stage raised four feet above the hall were a grand piano, a drum set, and spots for guitar and bass. When I arrived with Mom, she gestured towards a spot in the back. But, no, Trudy Vering, a former navy nurse, hurried over and ushered us to the front row, removing a chair smack in the center for Mom’s wheelchair. We had arrived at the 2019 Veterans Day celebration at Emerald Heights, where my parents live. Trudy was the featured speaker.

Trudy chose to especially honor three former navy nurses living at Emerald Heights as she spoke on the history of women in the armed forces. By starting time, the front row included four wheelchairs, one for each of my mom and dad, and one each for another couple that live in the skilled nursing facility with my parents.

Mom and I met Trudy a few years back in the Emerald Heights coffee shop and discovered their shared navy heritage. Trudy has wanted Mom’s navy service to be more widely known ever since that meeting. So, there we were at a Veterans Day event with Mom to be honored for her four years of service in World War II. I nervously eyed the drums on stage. Mom dislikes loud music. What if Mom wanted to leave in the middle? We didn’t bring her walker, but if she wanted out of there, she’d get up and go.

The Northwest Navy Jazz Quartet, four young men in sailor garb, played for forty-five minutes. Every time a cymbal clanged or the sticks thwocked on the floor tom, Mom turned and said, “Who’s doing that? That banging?” She hung in there, though, keeping time on a gentle rendition of “Girl from Ipanema” and listening without distress to the racing riffs of “Little Wing,” a Jimi Hendrix song.

After the speechifying, the band played a medley of Army, Marine, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard anthems. As each theme played, men and women who served stood up. We applauded and cheered. Through the first two themes, I was thinking, “Mom and Dad won’t have to stand because they’re in wheelchairs.” However, as the stirring strains of “Anchors aweigh my boys, anchors aweigh!” rang out, Mom immediately stood up. How does she know? I wondered. So much she doesn’t remember, but she knows to rise when she hears the Navy fight song!

After the event, Jason the drummer chatted with Mom, giving her a hug. She beamed as we took a picture with the young man’s arm draped over her shoulder. Isn’t it good to notice and affirm the accomplishments and character of others? We are exhorted to give honor throughout Scripture. Consider:

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. (Exodus 20:12)

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor. (Romans 12:10)

Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:7)

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)

It may be thought fairly easy to honor God as God (though it’s hard in practice), but honor “all people”? I don’t readily extend honor and respect to all people, let alone to all who are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Peter is taking things rather to an extreme, isn’t he?

Honoring a military veteran is a good thing, but what if that vet, after an honorable discharge, goes on to drug dependency and crime, even murder? What if the king has clay feet? (I’m thinking of Nebuchadnezzar here.)

I have learned from my volunteering in the prison that people with dishonor in their pasts may be people of honorable character and deeds in the present, and those thought most worthy of honor may be dishonorable in some regards. We never know all there is to know about anyone, even ourselves.

Bottom line, for me, is to honor all people, even if my role as a manager, prosecutor, judge, addiction counselor, corrections officer, parent or teacher calls me to correcting action, and leave any ultimate distinctions of honor or dishonor to God. And, simply, to do more honoring every day.

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