Yesterday, as I was listening to Morning Edition on National Public Radio (if my wife hears me say, “It was on the news,” she knows I heard it in NPR), I was moved by this story. Read it and, if you can, take the time to listen. It is a sample from the StoryCorps project, an oral history project of the Library of Congress. It is portions of an interview of a father by his daughter about the father’s service as an Army Chaplain in Viet Nam. A part of what caught me was a question he had for himself at the time: "Do you have something worthwhile to say to somebody in their last moments?" While the circumstances were not at all similar, I have also been with people in their last moments, wondering myself what I had to say.
This Memorial Day weekend I have am happy to honor my colleagues who are chaplains in the Armed Services of the Unites States. The Chaplains serving in the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy (who also provide service for the Marines and the Coast Guard) faithfully reflect the love and compassion of the faith communities from which they come to the many persons they serve. Many of them will spend at least some of their time as health care chaplains, serving in military hospitals. Many of them are members of the Reserves or of the Guard services, who may be called up on to leave established ministries in congregations to serve multifaith communities in active duty.
They are committed to serving because they see that the need is there, that the people in the Armed Services are particularly in need of support and care. I have had the honor of meeting a number of military chaplains, most (but not all) in the Episcopal Church. None of them thinks that war is a good thing. None of them thinks that the United States is more important than God. But each of them thinks that those who serve us in the Armed Forces are also God’s children, objects of God’s love and concern. Each of them realizes that those who serve us in the Armed Forces have chosen to take on risk and stress for sake of friends and family, and, yes, for us. And so each of them chooses to serve and care for those who take on risks – who are prepared to lay down their lives – for others.
Blessings this Memorial Day weekend to those who serve as Chaplains in the Armed Forces. May they continue to find blessing in honorably serving God by caring for those who serve us.