War & Peace

This week, as we anticipate Friday’s celebration of Veterans Day and pray for our veterans, we reflect on patriotism and the service these men and women have given to our country.

By: Joel Goza, Staff Spotlight

I am a veteran, writing to you about the holiday we celebrate this week – Veterans Day.

Where do veterans come from?

Veterans come from war. What is war?


General William Tecumseh Sherman said, “War is Hell.”

Mother Church teaches us that all citizens are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. She also tells us that our public authorities, who have the responsibility for the common good, have the right and the duty to evaluate the conditions of war and to judge if it is morally legitimate and justified, for the sake of the common good, to make the grave decision to use military force for our nation’s self-defense.

Throughout our history, men and women in our armed forces, volunteers and conscripts alike, served with the faith that our public authorities did, in fact, carefully judge the facts and determine that, morally, there was no other course of action than to use military force to ensure our security and freedom.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church certifies that those who swore an oath to serve the American People in the armed forces: “. . . are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace” (2310).

All of this doesn’t matter to servicemen and servicewomen—even if they are unsure that all the conditions of just war have been seriously weighed by our leaders, they will still fulfill their oath to the utmost of their ability.

It is for that service, given with faith in our leaders, and given in fulfillment of their solemn oath, that we honor all of our veterans this Friday.

In my lifetime, I have only known my country at war.

As a boy, I became aware that my father, several uncles, and most of their friends were veterans of WWII, as were many of the men in the neighborhood. A few of them were even called back to service for the Korean Conflict.

In my teenage years, I became aware that some veterans talked about the war and some did not, and that, mostly, those who did not talk about it, like my father and one of my uncles, were real combat veterans. I learned that several of my school teachers didn’t talk about the war for the same reason as my father: The horrors of their war experience were something they didn’t feel needed to be shared. Yes, they were proud of their service; yet they all wanted our nation to be strong enough to avoid all war in the future.

Veterans Day was more meaningful when I was growing up, not only because there were millions of veterans of WWII, but also because we were then a nation of people who had survived the war, who were a part of the war through their support and great sacrifice to the tremendous effort made by all to see the war through to the end. Most Americans today are largely unaware of what our servicemen and servicewomen are going through right now and have gone through steadily for the past 20-plus years. Most Americans experience the present-day war only remotely, not personally.

Even though only a few Americans are performing the sacrifice of military service today, all of them deserve our appreciation.

I am a particular kind of veteran: a United States Marine. U.S. Marines are known for their esprit de corps, the intangible spirit that lifts Marines above themselves for the good of the Corps — that is, their fellow Marines and all the Marines who have gone before them. It is this esprit de corps that makes Marines the most tolerant of all peoples that I have ever known. A Marine accepts other Marines as family, and doesn’t care about their skin color, ethnic background, religious preferences, or where they came from. Are Marines exceptional? Absolutely! Here’s what some non-Marines had to say about Marines:

The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!

—Eleanor Roosevelt

Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem.

—President Ronald Reagan

You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced, to the point of arrogance, that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth – and the amusing thing about it is that they are.

—Father Kevin Keaney, 1st Marine Division Chaplain, Korean War

When an esprit de corps motivates the citizens of a nation, we call it patriotism. Veterans have taken their patriotism a step further than most, by putting it into action and joining our armed forces. We can all show our patriotism, first, by acknowledging all our veterans — Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force — each Veterans Day, and second, by thanking them for all they do and have done.

And, if the veteran you’re thanking is a U.S. Marine, also wish him well this Friday, the second day of the Marine Corps’ 242nd year of service to our great nation.

Earlier I asked you, “Where do veterans come from?”

Now I ask you, “Where are veterans going?”

Veterans are taking the high, hard road . . . the road to peace.

Joel Goza serves in the Finance Office of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington as Assistant Controller.

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