The blog of the Roaring Fork Valley (Reform) Jewish community
77 Meadowood Drive • Aspen, CO • 81611
Rabbi David Segal and Cantor Rollin Simmons

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day in Aspen

This morning I had the honor of offering the invocation and benediction during Aspen's Veterans Day commemoration.  After the presentation of the colors and a memorial wreath, Colonel Dick Merritt and Dan Glidden led the community in the Pledge of Allegiance, words of welcome, and the lighting of a memorial candle.  Then they invited me to give the invocation, and here's what I said:

Good morning. It's an honor for me to be here with you today.
The Abraham of the Bible -- the father of three faiths -- was, at times, a man of war.  He was called by God to bring a new way of life to the world.  In the service of that call, he left his home and family, journeyed to an unfamiliar land, and there stepped into the role of general to battle hostile forces threatening what was dear to him (Gen. 14).  
But Abraham never lost sight of his calling, the transcendent purpose of his wandering and warring.  That calling had been proclaimed by God: “You shall be a blessing... And all the families of the earth shall be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:2-3).
In our nation’s history, Abraham Lincoln, too, became a man of war.  He was called and sworn to protect this Union, its constitution, and the universal freedom promised in its Declaration of Independence.  He despised war, but loved the union more.1  Liberty and Peace were his higher purpose; war, the unfortunate instrument to protect those ideals and the nation whose soul they breathe into life.  So it has been throughout the history of our country, when men and women have stepped forward to serve.
In that spirit, we honor and celebrate you, our veterans, today.  As we give thanks for your service and sacrifice, let us always remember:
in your courage in combat, we see your commitment to peace; 
in your bravery in battle, we sense your transcendent purpose:
to be a blessing to your families, to our nation, and to the world.
After I spoke, Dick Merritt expressed that I was their chaplain for the day, and he spoke about the proud history of chaplains in the military. He told a story about a military ship that was sinking, and the four chaplains who gave up their life preservers -- and therefore, their lives -- so that four more troops could be saved.  They were three pastors and a rabbi, a reminder that all faiths are joined in support of our country.  Then a list was read of Aspen soldiers killed in Action, and Tom Buesch read a moving poem by a young airman (I will try to obtain a copy to post here).  Jeannie Walla led us in the national anthem, and then all veterans present were called forward in order of the wars in which they served.  It was an emotional sight, to see so many of different ages and life experiences who had served our country.  Several veterans gave impromptu remarks about memories of the war, what their service means to them, and fellow soldiers lost along the way.

Finally, I was asked to offer the benediction:
Today we have celebrated, commemorated, and reflected.  In closing, I offer a blessing inspired by the ancient words of the Torah:
May God bless and keep our veterans, and those they love and protect.
May God’s face shine upon them and be gracious to them.
May God’s countenance be lifted up to us all, and grant us that most precious of gifts, peace.
And together let us say, Amen.
I am grateful that I took the time out of my day today to be reminded of the debt we owe all those who serve in the military.  To all our veterans: Thank you.

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