I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “If you love your freedom, thank a veteran.” I don’t put a lot of stock in what I read on bumper stickers, but that one rings true.
A few years ago I was visiting England and I made a trip to Dover. As I stood there, on the beach, below those white cliffs, three people came to mind.
My grandfather stood on that beach during the First World War as he boarded a boat to take him to fight in France. His right arm is buried somewhere in France.
I thought of the Reverend Canon Harold Graven, a priest of this diocese who was a chaplain in the Canadian army during the Second World War. He too stood somewhere on those beaches. He stood there on June 6, 1944. That was the day the Normandy Invasion started. If you don’t know anything about the Normandy Invasion, then watch the first 24 minutes of the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” That is, if you have the stomach for it.
The majority of soldiers who made it to France that day did not live to see another. Harold’s greatest regret in life was that the Generals determined that the Army Chaplains were not to go to France that day. It would be another two or three days before Harold was permitted to go to France.
The third person who came to my mind as I stood on the beach at Dover was a son of St. Paul’s Church, Gordon DeBlois. Shortly before he was killed he said:
"All I pray for is that we who are over here shall not be forgotten when this war is over. I pray that our sacrifices will not be in vain and that in another few years the world will not be drowned in blood again. I pray that the people of all nations of the world will be big and wise enough to work for everlasting peace, happiness and prosperity without allowing their prejudices, personal greed, or selfish ambitions to stand in the path of such an aim."
"… everlasting peace, happiness and prosperity” – noble goals, goals that I believe were in the hearts and minds of all who fought and all who sacrificed. War is a last resort, peace is always preferable. The motto of Remembrance Day is, “Lest We Forget.” Or, “for fear that” we forget. Their sacrifice is in vein if we fail to strive for, “everlasting peace, happiness and prosperity.”
But for now, I say to Gordon, Harold, Grandpy and to all veterans and their families – Thank you!