I always dread Veteran's Day somewhat...not totally...but somewhat...and here's why.
I am a combat veteran of Viet Nam. Not to disparage those who have never served in the military nor those who did serve and aren't combat vets...but I think there is a peculiar solemnity to the celebrations on Veteran's Day by those who have served in combat.
We all owe our lives to someone who died in our place, and that not a phrase...but the ones who died have a face and a name in our memories.
On April 19, 1971, on a combat mission as a door gunner on a marine helicopter we were suddenly and rather dramatically shot down. The details of that are not important other than we were shot down and by the grace of God and some heroic actions by fellow marines we were rescued, the dead, the wounded, and the rest of us were rescued.
After arriving back at our base those of us that could went through debriefing. After debriefing we had some lunch then back to work on the flight line...but we were not allowed to fly the rest of the day for obvious reasons.
Anyway, I was scheduled to fly another mission that afternoon, and since I was grounded for the rest of the day another marine took my place. It was one of my best friends, George V.
George and two other marines died on that mission.
I struggled for years knowing that George died where I was scheduled to die. My only consolation came a few years later when I decided that I needed to live my life for some worthy purpose since I lived...and I decided that I needed to live in such a way that George's death would not have been in vain...in a way I live two lives...mine and George's. That became my only comfort at having lived.
I'm really glad we have a national Veteran's Day celebration, but for combat vets whose friends died and thus we lived...every day is Veteran's Day. There is literally not a day that goes by that I do not remember...
I'm reminded of this passage from Romans 5:7, "For one will scarcely die for a righteous person...though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die..." (ESV)
Of course Paul is pointing out how great Christ's and God's love for us is in that Jesus died for us even though we were not his best friend...nor were we all that "good" that he should die for us. Paul is pointing to the greatness of Jesus.
George died in my place...and I have never, nor will I ever get over that fact. Now, George didn't choose to die for me, nor did he die because I was that "good" that he would die in my place...but he did die where I was scheduled to die...
Would that we all could get a sense of the reality of Christ dying in our stead...then every day would be a "Spiritual Veteran's Day"...God's people living with the acute awareness that we live for two people...ourselves and Christ.