At the end of World War I, the most destructive, and far-reaching war in human history at that time, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. After a war with a total number of 40 million casualties, many would be at a loss for words, but Wilson declared to the country, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
Although President Wilson said those words almost 100 years ago, not a day has gone by in which a U.S. citizen has not sacrificed their time, their strength, and oftentimes their lives so that we may continue to live as free citizens of the United States of America. We so quickly forget. Whether it is the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross or the sacrifice of a man or woman who rose to the call of battle, freedom insists that an immense price be paid.
I wish that as I sit here I could say that the wars are over, but that day has not yet come. It is hard to watch or read the news and not leave with a heavy and broken heart; this world is filled with so much brokenness, hatred and fear that some days it seems like there isn’t very much to celebrate. And then, by His grace, the goodness of God comes into focus. He is and will always be our stronghold.
At Ambleside we seek to instruct students as to the roles and responsibilities of a citizen of one’s country. Veterans Day is an opportunity for such instruction as students become acquainted with men and women who have and are serving in our armed forces. It also serves as an opportunity for students to give honor and respect to these persons through this special time set aside for pledges, prayer, and patriotism. While many offices and school are closed on this day, our school intentionally sets aside this time to remember as a community the price of our freedom. The very freedom that allows us to stand in the courtyard each morning and openly pray and worship God. The freedom that allows us to stand with our hand over our heart and pledge our own allegiance to our country. The freedom that declares that each and every one of us has the right to life, liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness. The freedom that only a matter of years ago, we all did not have.
Today, our doors will not be closed, but rather we will confess for the countless moments that we have forgotten to be thankful for our country and all those who fought for it. Today we will set aside time to remember. And while as we sing songs and wear poppies to honor our veterans, I am reminded by Abraham Lincoln’s very poignant letter to Mrs. Bixby that even our best intentions will never be enough:
“I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
By Michelle Clarkson