Honoring our Unitarian Universalist Veterans
By F. Vernon Chandler
Veterans Day, originally established as Armistice Day in 1926, is the official holiday when the United States honors our men and women who are veterans. The holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all US veterans.
Recognizing and honoring the military service of members in our Unitarian Universalist congregations are not high priorities for many of our churches and fellowships. But there are literally hundreds of Unitarian Universalists in our nation's armed forces today, and chances are that someone sitting near you on Sunday morning was once in uniform.
I suspect that many Unitarian Universalist veterans feel some awkwardness in sharing this distinction with other UUs on Veterans Day. Given the number of veterans who are members of our religious faith, I can't help wishing our Veterans Day observances were different.
Our veterans' military experiences are varied. Some enjoyed peacetime service. Others were touched by the horrors of combat. A few continue to carry physical and emotional scars from their wartime service. For some veterans, it was their military experience that initiated the religious search that eventually brought them to Unitarian Universalism. I know a few current and former military personnel who actually discovered Unitarian Universalism while in uniform. After all, we have UU chaplains in all branches of military service and a few of our larger military installations have UU congregations that meet in military chapels.
Political opinions vary among those in uniform as it does among civilians. One big difference for our men and women in uniform is that they do not have the same freedom to express their opinions publicly as do other citizens. The tempo of military deployments today places a great strain on our military personnel and their families. I have friends and colleagues who are on their second one year deployment in less than 4 years.
On this Veterans Day weekend, I encourage Unitarian Universalists to honor the veterans and military personnel in their congregations. Regardless of your political views regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our members of the armed forces do not start wars nor do they dictate foreign policy.
Our Unitarian Universalist military personnel need your support... and your love.
Expressing that support could be as simple as lighting a candle for your veterans on Sunday morning. Or you might consider offering time in your worship service for individual veterans to stand and share a special memory or lesson in life that was gained from military service. Hearing what our Unitarian Universalist veterans have to say and share just might be more powerful than any sermon preached from your congregation's pulpit!
This year, when you see Veterans Day flags flying in your towns, no matter what your feelings are about this or any war, my fondest hope is that you will remember our UU veterans and UU military personnel. Remember them and reach out to them in love, extending the olive branch of acceptance and respect that our UU faith calls us to embrace each day.
The Rev. Dr. F. Vernon Chandler is a Unitarian Universalist minister and has served for over 32 years as a UU military chaplain. His overseas active duty assignments include tours of duty in Bosnia, Germany, Hungary, Korea, and Kosovo. He holds the rank of Colonel in the US Army Reserve. Vernon and his wife Nataliya reside in Eberstadt, Germany.