A debt that can’t be paid

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

Each November we honor the veterans who have served our country, and the world, in so many ways. It is fitting that we pay tribute, more than that, however, it is an obligation.

Each and every occasion that has presented itself has produced its share of volunteers and patriots and heroes. Because we, above all people, Americans understand that freedom is not cheap nor is it to be taken for granted. It is a gift that must be packaged and presented anew in each generation. And it is the responsibility of each generation to guard it and protect it for the next.

Not everyone was motivated by love of country – but most answered when Uncle Sam called. In times past we were romantics who thought war was glamorous until we stared down at the barrel of a rifle or felt the sting of a bullet flying past us or watched with horror at the blood soaked beaches and the thousands of graves to mark the place where once stood a person. That was then. What about now?

Now we, from the comfort of our homes, can watch the slaughter. We put up monuments and arrange parades and pin medals. Everyone is an expert about yesterday. But through it all we still send our men and women to war because it is the only way humans have of protecting life and limb. We have not found the secret to survival through discourse.

The men and women we are duty bound to honor are perfect examples of the goodness we are capable of – the sacrifices that were made. Now, more than ever, they are in the forefront of giving aid and comfort to those who serve, and have served. The veterans who returned did not retire into the sunset. Through the various veterans’ organizations, they support the widow and the orphan and the GI who needs assistance. They visit the sick, humor the saddened and nurture the infirmed. They do all this as a labor of love and dedication – the same dedication to a country that sent them away and the same love of fellow human beings who cheered their return.

At this time we pay tribute to all who served whether in uniform or civilian efforts – in particular we honor the memory of those who sacrificed life and limb, with this tribute. It is a time of Thanksgiving – thankful to God for our liberties – thankful to each other for the fortitude and courage of conviction – thankful to America for setting aside the time to remember. Perhaps it is no accident that the holiday of Thanksgiving occurs in the same month as Veterans Day because there is so much to be thankful for.

May the dreams that gave us this commemoration not be lost and may those now in harm’s way find their way back in safety and may we never lose sight of the sacrifice made for honor and country. May a kind and benevolent God watch over all of us as we walk with pride and continue with life understanding that the debt we owe can never be paid, but we will never stop trying.