It does not feel like Veterans’ Day. It still doesn’t quite feel like November, I somehow managed not to go into any shop the past two weeks that was selling poppies, and memorial ceremonies were held on Remembrance Sunday instead of today. Our church has its own war memorial, and so at the end of the service we processed out into the courtyard where the oldest veteran placed a poppy wreath at the foot of it. As we left the church, we heard bagpipes, and were on North Street right as a military band marched down to the town memorial in front of the cathedral. The congregations from at least three churches followed them — the undergraduates in their red robes, more representatives from the RAF base nearby, and the townspeople. They all stood in the street and repeated the ceremony that we had had but on a larger scale, repeating the same words, the same hymns. And yet, the solemnity was different from honoring our veterans in the States. Perhaps it is because I did not mentally prepare for it ahead of time, but I couldn’t quite connect. Odd, considering that I am one of those who stops and reads the names on war memorials whenever I come across them.
We need to remember the people who go and experience the things we can only dream of, those who do not wake from the nightmare to the comfort of their beds. Regardless of politics, these people have strength, faithfulness and sense of honor. It would be ungrateful to treat them with any less the respect they deserve. The sermon on Sunday spoke of re-membering, not simply the opposite of forgetting, but also the process of reconciling, of reintegrating, and though he spoke in terms of rejoining God’s creation, this, indeed, is a challenge to all soldiers returning from war. In addition to remembering their sacrifices, we need also to remember their persons, and welcome them home.
The minister says:
They shall grow not old,
…..as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
…..nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
…..and in the morning
We will remember them.
All repeat: We will remember them.