Benny's World

Monday, May 28, 2007

John Edwards: Honor Our Heroes

Here's a statement his campaign released this morning:

“Today, Elizabeth and I offer up our prayers in memory of all those who have fallen for America, and our hearts go out to their families. We honor all the brave men and women in uniform who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Because of their courage, our country is safer. Because of their dedication to the causes of liberty and justice, our country remains the land of the free. And because of their sacrifice, we are a stronger nation and a stronger people. We honor these heroes especially on this day, but every day we should remember the sacrifice they made to protect our freedom.”

Yesterday, I read a comment at the Daily Kos, where there was a special Edwards Memorial Day Weekend edition, by LadyLib, who did much to honor our soldiers, both the fallen, and to support our current ones, that is worth sharing:

I put my End the War bumper sticker on today...

first time I have ever put a bumper sticker on one of my cars. I also put my Edwards sticker on too. I wore my End the War tee shirt today while I went to decorate family graves and put flags on all the graves of family members that were vets....I can't believe how many there were. I spent all day going from one cemetary to another. I also made up a care package for a soldier.

One might recall 10 things one could do this weekend as suggested by the Support the Troops, End The War website. She did at least 4 of them.

Last night, I prayed for the troops as I read that our military are bleeding them and half of the American people do not know what is happening. Here's an excerpt from the No Quarter's site that Taylor Marsh pointed her readers to and beware, some of it will infuriate you when you read it.

My military buddies are terrific, patriotic warriors. They do their jobs with great integrity, great personnel sacrifice, and minimal bitching (at least in public). But they know we are kidding ourselves if we think we can sustain current operations in Iraq without either a draft or significant reinforcements from the so-called "coalition of the willing". We must do one or the other because our current recruitment and retention policies are not sufficient to sustain the operations tempo for the Army and Marines in Iraq.

We cannot rely on the Iraqi soldiers or police. In January of 2006 the Pentagon claimed that there were 137,000 trained Iraqis soldiers. This month the Pentagon claims there are 143,000 trained Iraqis. The failure to substantially increase the size of the Iraqi Army is only part of the problem. The Iraqi Army also is heavily infiltrated by Shia militias. They are not a national force dedicated to defending Iraqis regardless of race, religion, tribe or creed. They are a sectarian vendetta force and will not bring the peace.

Meanwhile, American men and women are paying a price in blood that is not being reciprocated by the Iraqi political leaders. Because we lack the manpower on the ground in Iraq to gain tactical control of the situation, our continued presence perversely becomes a recruiting tool for sectarian militias and, to a lesser extent, foreign terrorists. This policy is undermining U.S. interests in the Middle East and around the world.

As you plant a flag to honor fallen soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen tomorrow, pray also that the Congress will find the courage to put a stop to this madness.

Cruel. But I still honor them for putting on that uniform. And our government needs to pull them out. They are not dying for my freedom; they are unwanted in Iraq, and dying because of a strife that has been long time coming. The Iraqis alledgedly cannot rely on us any longer if their own soldiers will not help them. We have always been a nation of helping others as long as they wish to help themselves.

Much to be done when they return, and that will cost billions in itself. One in three has a serious injury that will take much therapy, or some instances, the soldier may not be able to work again, and we will have to figure out how to help take care of their families.

Alas though, Memorial Day is to honor the fallen. I salute my late mother-in-law's brother, Jimmy Smith, who died in WWII. And to his sister, who was very patriotic too.

As I am not a great wordsmith, I chose to search for something within my faith that could express better than I could about Memorial Day. Here is a sermon given exactly a year ago by Rev Steve Eddington of the UU Nashua Church entitled "A Time to Remember".

Having conducted the number of memorial services and funerals as I now have, I feel fortunate to have gained what I feel is a pretty good understanding of some of more common ways the measure of a life is taken, and of the marks of a full life. So for the remainder of my sermon for today I want to share some of what those measures are; and then I want to focus on the lives of two very fine members of this congregation who passed away over this past year and say a bit about what the were the marks of their lives.

I've spoken before on the topic of what kinds of things are most remembered in a person who has died, so I'll just briefly review it here. One thing I find striking, in preparing a Memorial Service with family and friends of the deceased, is how little attention is usually given to how a person earned their living or how much wealth they had - even though we devote a very substantial chunk of our lives to these endeavors. Their job or profession will be mentioned, and even affirmed. But it is the ways in which the person extended him or herself to others, whether on the job or in other settings, that gets the emphasis. It is how the person gave of him/herself to their family, friends, community, and religious community that is remembered far more than whatever they managed to acquire. Nobody's material worth has ever been belittled or demeaned, that I can remember, it just doesn't get top billing.

Closely related to this, it is the things you were most passionate about, and devoted to, that are best remembered. I recall doing a service for someone who had been instrumental in starting and promoting softball and tennis programs for children and young people here in Nashua, and the tournaments he'd gotten the city to host, and the teams he'd taken to out-of-town tournaments. This man's job was barely mentioned, but his passion for these sports was reounted at length. So, whatever you feel most passionate about, whether or not it has anything to do with your job, is going to show through; and it is one very significant way in which the measure of your life will be taken.

You will also be measured for the ways in which you made people laugh. I don't mean by that how good your jokes were; but for the joy you brought to people's lives, for how you lightened and lifted someone's spirits when they most needed it. You will also be measured for how "at home" you were with yourself - for how grounded you were, for how clear you were in your convictions, even as you allowed space for others of differing convictions than yours. How well you carried yourself with an inner confidence - not an inflated ego, but an inner confidence - is yet another often cited measure of a life.

You'll also be measured for how religious you were. This may sound a little strange, especially since I'm the minister in town who often gets called upon when a family wants a minister to officiate a service for a member who has passed away, and who - as the family often puts it - was "not very religious." But, they'll go on to say, we still want a minister to do his/her service. That's when the funeral director thinks, "Well, better call up the Unitarian Universalist guy."

So I get that call, and meet with the family. More often than not I'll hear about how the deceased person loved and savored life, savored living, respected the earth and its creatures, or cultivated a sense of awe and mystery and wonder at the Larger Life that surrounds us all; and I'll end up thinking (although I usually keep the thought to myself), "This person sounds pretty religious to me." Well, whether you care to call it religious or not, how well you embraced, loved, savored, and gave of yourself to life will be a very clear marker in taking the measure of your days.

It reminds me about what Elizabeth Edwards says often about loved ones who have passed away: that it's more than a name, it's about their stories and who they were as people.

Peace be with them and with you.

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  • Benny,
    thanks for linking the sermon and good for you for putting on the bumper sticker and t-shirt.

    Personally, I think the best way to honor the dead is to stop making more of them on purpose.

    By Blogger Chancelucky, at 9:13 AM  

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