In May 2004 May, I was privileged enough to be in Washington, D.C., the
same weekend as the dedication of the National World War II Memorial.
On the day of the dedication, I was standing next to an elderly veteran
in full uniform while waiting for the Metro. A young man approached the
gentleman, grabbed his hand and thanked him for his service to our
country. It was a simple gesture, but it brought the veteran to tears.
Memorial Day, like Veterans Day in November, is a way of
saying thank you to all the men and women who have served our country in
Veterans Day actually has its origins in Armistice
Day, the last day of fighting in World War I (the 11th hour of the 11th
day of the 11th month). But after World War II, the question came up of
how also to honor those who had served in that war.
Representative Edwin K. Rees of Kansas suggested
that Armistice Day be changed to Veterans Day, a day to honor all those
who had served in the military. And so in 1954 President Dwight D.
Eisenhower signed a bill marking November 11 as Veterans Day. The date
of its observance was changed in 1968, but was changed back in 1978
because of the historic significance of November 11. That date is also
the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a former soldier and the patron of
According to the Archdiocese for the
Military Services, USA (www.milarch.org), on any given day there are 1.4 million Catholics serving in the military.
You may not even know that Catholics in the
military are part of their own archdiocese—the Archdiocese for the
Military Services, USA (See Ministry in the Military: Serving Those Who Serve).
Here are some ways you and your family can show
support and say thanks to all those who have served and continue to
serve our country:
• Are there members of your family, parish or
neighborhood currently serving in the military? Have your family “adopt”
a member of the armed forces. Better yet, see if you can get your
parish involved. With the holidays arriving, this may be an especially
difficult time for those away from their loved ones. Send cards,
letters, care packages. Make sure you check first, however, on what you
may or may not send.
• Don’t forget about the families of those in the
military. Offer to help out in any way that you can, such as watching
the kids or even just providing a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on or
• Make an extra effort to pray for peace in the world.
• Organize a prayer service—either at home or in your parish—for all those currently serving in the military.
• If you know any veterans, thank them for their service.
• The Military Archdiocese receives its funding through donations. Support their work by making a donation.
Click here for more family activities.