A Veterans Day prayer written by English teacher Chris Jensen (LTC retired) for the boys of Rockhurst Catholic High in Kansas City, Missouri:
Veterans’ Day Prayer
Today is Veteran’s Day, a federal holiday signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954. At the time, he was making official a day already special to veterans; it was the anniversary of the cease-fire that ended World War I. The cease-fire began at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918.
Long before 1918, the term “eleventh hour” meant a deadline barely met. How many of us have finished something important at the 11th hour? The expression comes from Matthew’s gospel, that story about workers hired at the eleventh hour, who received the same pay as workers who had started first thing in the morning.
In November of 1918, Allied and Axis generals were at the end of three sleepless days, arguing in a railroad car over an agreement to end four years of war, 20 million killed, and another 20 million wounded. The generals reached their agreement at 5 am, November 11th; they decided on a cease-fire that would go into effect at 11 am. Their choice of 11 am suggests their feeling that time was running out.
After a war that was so wasteful and so exhausting, hopes were high that people had learned a lesson, would never again engage in warfare. Some began to call it “The War to End All Wars.” Yet 90 years later, we still send soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen to distant lands where they fight on our behalf in yet another of the long line of wars since World War One. We call it the price of freedom, but, especially today, it’s a price paid mostly by others. We express our gratitude to those who pay the price for us, even if our own sin helped send them to a war that maims or kills them. And our gratitude, what is it? A pat on the back, a “thank you,” a check to the IRS, a purchase from the DAV, a flag hung out for display?
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:
Heavenly father, on this Veteran’s Day, put us to work. The hour is late, and others, our veterans, have labored all morning. Teach us to live responsibly, not selfishly, not wastefully; teach us to treat our fellows as we want them to treat us, so that fewer will be sent to buy our freedom with lives and limbs. Teach us to be truly grateful for their sacrifices: to thank them with helpful deeds. We come to you, Father, at the eleventh hour, hoping to share in the labor of your kingdom. May those veterans who have come before us rest now in your loving and eternal peace.