Today is a day where I gleefully run around reminding people to get me presents in honor of my service in the Navy. A little tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, because I don’t really expect presents, but I am excited that those of us who serve or have served in the military are recognized, at least to some degree by the general populace.
I don’t really think that it is possible to return to being a “civilian” after you have served. It changes you, in a fundamental way. Whether your tour of duty was long or short, you answered “Yes” to the call. When you signed those (many, many) documents, you agreed to having some Amendment rights taken away, to the possibility of being called into battle on behalf of your country whether or not you agreed with the battle in question, to taking lives if necessary, and of giving your own life if necessary.
These are not small promises.
There is a special bond, a fraternal community, built within the ranks of the military. There are disagreements, rivalries, and people you just cannot stand; but that man or woman next to you, or across the oceans, is your brother or sister, and you know that when the time comes, they will have your back, just as you would have theirs.
Service. This is not just a word. This is a part of who we are. Just as baptism makes us new creations, in a way, the military also transforms us in this service. Not to say that I haven’t met my share of men and women who complain, whine and try to get out of work. Certainly, there is that, too. But, there is a spirit of self-giving, of acknowledgement of our commitment to offering ourselves as sacrifice, even if we are never asked to do this, which colors our life.
As we are all called to be a sincere gift of self for others and to love our God and our neighbor, I have seen within the ranks of the military a great example of this — a real pouring out of one’s talents, time, blood, sweat, tears, and resources for the good of others, even others we do not know or will never get a chance to meet.
I was not Catholic when I entered the Navy. I was raised atheist. But if you, today, look at my dog tags, they say on them “RC” for Roman Catholic, because when they asked me on the day that I in-processed at Boot Camp how I wanted to be buried if I died in service, that was my choice. I have to see now that God was with me every moment of my life, whether I realized it or not. And I am very thankful that He gave me this experience.
I think it is great that the saint we honor in today’s liturgy is St. Martin of Tours, who was a soldier before becoming a priest. From the Magnificat, there are a bunch of things which spoke to my heart this day:
“In Saint Martin, you exchanged military weapons for the weapons of the Gospel: — in all those who have died in military service, exchange suffering and death for life.”
Portion of Psalm 144:
“Blessed be the Lord, my rock
who trains my arms for battle,
who prepares my hands for war.”
“Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.”
May God bless all my fellow military members, keeping them safe and well and in His loving embrace. And to all my friends from the Navy, and other branches of service — I love you guys!
In fond remembrance of René LaMorte, USN, called home to God after a 6 month deployment on the USS Eisenhower. We love you, Néné!