O good and gracious God, the framers of our Declaration of Independence testified that you have endowed us with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And ever since they penned these words, there have been those who would like to strip these freedoms from us. This week, we remember all those who have defended these freedoms through their service in our armed forces.
Some of them served during World War II or the Korean War. Some served during the Vietnam War, in Grenada, or Panama. Some served during the Persian Gulf War, War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War. Some served during the Cold War, during the Cuban Missile Crises. And some served during a time of unusual peace. Some served on foreign battlefields in harm’s way, whereas some served stateside in relative safety.
Yet, all of them left behind and sacrificed much. They left behind friends, family and dreams. They left behind homes, possessions, even love. And they all sacrificed their health. Many still bear the scars from their service, spiritual, mental and physical. Many lie, even today, in our veterans’ hospitals or struggle for recovery in rehabilitation centers. They suffer from post-traumatic stress and survivor’ guilt; they yearn for peace in their souls. Some find themselves wandering hopeless and homeless in the land they defended.
And many sacrificed their very lives. They gave up their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness so we could have those rights.
For all of these, our veterans, we ask your blessing.
We also pray your blessing for family members and friends who have made great sacrifices to make their service possible. And we pray for families and friends who grieve the deaths of those who left to serve only to never return.
Jesus said that no one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. So for all our veterans who have been willing to lay down their lives for us, we ask your blessing.
Keep them in your care and grant them the peace that they sought to safeguard for others. As we honor our veterans, we also pray for peace everywhere. Teach your children of every race, creed and faith, in every land, the ways of peace, so that those who have sacrificed so much for peace and freedom will not have sacrificed in vain.
We pray all these things in the name of the Prince of Peace, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.[i]
[i] This prayer was inspired by a litany prepared by Eileen Norrington, ministerial authorization coordinator, Parish Life and Leadership Ministry Team, Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ, Cleveland, Ohio. Norrington is a veteran of the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps.