Blessed are the Peace Makers by Sherry Thomas

Blessed are the peacemakers

 

All politics is local, or so we were told by Tip O’Neill, the 34 year veteran of the House of Representatives who served his Cambridge district with a keen understanding of human nature. Here on Martha’s Vineyard, all news is local, or so I was told by Dick Reston, when I worked at the Vineyard Gazette back in the 1990’s. On this special day, I suggest that all veterans are local and deserving of our gratitude for their service and sacrifice.

 

Today is the 11th day of the 11th month. In 1918, at the 11th hour on this day, the Armistice was signed ending the Great War which had begun on August 1, 1914 having taken almost 6 million Allied lives, of which 116,000 were Americans. Between World Wars I and II, the commemoration of this event was called Armistice Day. After World War II, in the United States it was observed as Veterans Day, and in the Commonwealth, Remembrance Day.

 

The way the Island was informed of this local news, according to the Gazette report dated November 14, 1918, was through a familiar Island name. “The big news first came to Edgartown at 4 a.m. on Monday through a telephone call to Mr. Chester E. Pease from Mrs. George D. Flynn of Fall River. But most of the people here were first made aware that the great world event had surely happened and that the war was about to end victoriously, when at 6:30 a.m., the Congregational church bell began to ring, quickly followed by the bells of the other Island churches. Soon with the bells clanging, autos honking, horns tooting, the Island started in on a varied program of celebration which did not end until the midnight hours.”

All veterans are local. I’m sure there are veterans of military service sitting among us this morning, or at least family members of those who served. In my own family, I can count four generations of honorable duty. Both of my grandfathers saw World War I action, one at home and one in the cavalry in France. My father was in the Army infantry serving in the Pacific theater in Papua, New Guinea. My two uncles served in Europe during the war. My brother-in-law was in based in Viet Nam in the late 1960’s assigned to the Army Fourth Mechanized Infantry. Even now, my two Marine nephews have seen multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

On the Vineyard, according to the MV Times, there are currently 350 veterans living as our neighbors. As recently as 2000, there were 1400.

You may know them: Mike Hewitt, Island builder, Paul Schultz, recently retired assistant superintendent for The Trustees of Reservations on Chappaquiddick, and Tom Bennett, associate executive and senior clinical advisor for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. As members of the American Legion Post 186 in Edgartown, they were interviewed this week in honor of their lost comrades whose pictures are on display at the Post on Katama Road.

You may know Major David Berube of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, a Chaplain at Otis Air National Guard Base who is also Rev. Berube, Baptist minister and Officer Berube of Oak Bluffs Police Department.

You may know them: Staff Sgt. Randy Dull, Edgartown resident, Matt Bradley, Oak Bluffs EMT, Whitney Hyde, philosophy major at UMass-Amherst, and new mother Siobhan Healy.

You may know them: James Maciel, class of 1943 and Donald Mitchell, class of 1944 who had to drop out of Vineyard Haven High School in order to serve. They received their diplomas just this past August from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

You may know other veterans whom you see every day at the post office, the dump, Town Hall or at Cronig’s.

 

On this Veterans Day, how do we acknowledge the service and sacrifice of these men and women? You may simply turn to the neighbor in your pew and say, “Thank you for your service.” After worship today, you can be a spectator of the official parade set to begin at 10:45 a.m. at Nancy’s Restaurant in Oak Bluffs and traveling along the waterfront to the Ocean Park gazebo. In a more reflective way, you might choose to visit an Island cemetery, such as Oak Grove in Vineyard Haven to walk the “Avenue of Flags” placed there just for today. Or, you can spend some quiet time right here in Chilmark, at Abel’s Hill Cemetery, and say ‘thank you’ to the veterans at rest in that beautiful spot.

 

What is the responsibility of a church in a small town?

How do we reach out to those among us?

As a neighbor, it’s being available to lend a helping hand in time of need.

As a stranger, it’s offering a sincere smile to that unfamiliar face you see in town.

As a member of this church, it can be reaching out to veterans as a reflection of stated purpose as it says right on our website, “We are a church that proclaims our faith through our actions.”

 

ACTIONS. That can mean going beyond Island borders to write letters or emails to soldiers serving overseas. At this time of year, there is great meaning in preparing care packages to send to those far from home at the holidays.

 

If there is a ‘purpose’ to any war, it is to regain the peace. If there is a ‘purpose’ to any follower of Christ, it is to be that peace.

As we prayed in unison today, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,” St. Francis lays out a clear outline for how to live that peace.

As we sang Dona Nobis Pacem in a call and response this morning, we were saying to one other, “Give us peace.”

As we heard from Isaiah in the Old Testament,

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” The prophet tells us, the descendants of Jacob, to walk in the light of the Lord.

 

All veterans are local. And this is the day we honor them, whether they are still with us or have already passed on to their reward. The local family of a Viet Nam veteran remembers him today as it marks the third anniversary of his passing from the effects of Agent Orange. The memory of military service is still fresh, whether it be that of the veteran, his family or his neighbors. They have served us because they created the peace out of the warfare so we could live without worry of losing the freedom for which they so bravely fought.

They are the peacemakers and they are blessed.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

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