Veteran’s Day: A Time for Remembrance and Prayer

In celebration of Veteran’s Day, American Catholic Radio shares with our listeners the memories of Archbishop Philip Hannan, who served in World War II. The book by Peter Finney, Jr., and Nancy Collins, The Archbishop Wore Combat Boots, is fascinating reading. As a student of history, I enjoy reading about the war and talking to veterans—now few and far between.

In my family, I have a cousin who was a Marine at Guadalcanal; and I have the memories of my Dad, now deceased, who also served in the Pacific. A wartime portrait, now sitting on my desk, shows him somewhere in South Pacific, smiling for the camera, with a pipe clenched between his teeth.

I remember, though, from his stories, that his experience wasn’t always pleasant. He told me about jungle rot, which affected boots and clothing and tents, and something called “dengue fever,” which sounded pretty awful.

Dad’s stories, and the recollections of other veterans that I have heard, keep me from simply treating the history of any war as nostalgia. From my reading, too, I know that the reality of war was terrible indeed. While my Dad reminisced for us, I know that many veterans prefer to leave their personal stories in the past, which is their right. For them, it was real life, something they wanted to come home from as soon as they could.

I suspect we can say the same for our young men and women—some of whom I’ve met in my parish lately. We are thankful for the sacrifices of our veterans and those serving today. Let us make this Veteran’s Day a day of prayer for them, and time to pray for an end to war.