Today at church we had our annual program and reception to honor service men and women and veterans in our congregation. This is a church that opened in 1947, and a community largely populated with World War II Veterans who were just coming home and starting families. The program includes prayers, saying the pledge of allegiance, and recognizing service people and veterans who are present. Also kind of a sentimental patriotic song. For the past three years, the group has chosen to honor one veteran from our congregation, and tell that Veteran's story.
This year they chose a man who had served in the Navy in the South Pacific, who witnessed the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, who at Okinawa survived Kami Kaze attacks, the sad last desperate attempts by the Japanese who must have known they could not win.
A.'s family got him out of the nursing home for the morning, so that he could be honored. He came to our 8:00 worship service, and had the place of honor for the program and reception. There he sat in his wheelchair, listening to C. read about his service during World War II. It was more moving than I had expected -- for A. is clearly an ordinary man -- and also a Hero. It was a privilege to hear the story of what he suffered and how he served. And there are so many other stories like his -- stories of ordinary men and women who became, in an extraordinary moment, heroes.
It got me thinking, though: why is it that it sometimes takes something as terrible and destructive as a war to turn ordinary people into heroes? There are other causes, even in our time, that require heroes. Even this time can be an extraordinary one. And there are ordinary heroes whose stories we will never know, because they served for peace, and not for war, at home and not far away, in hidden and secret ways.
Perhaps the most extraordinary heroes are not the generals and the presidents, the explorers and the astronauts. Perhaps the best heroes have always been the ordinary ones, the people who never sought glory, but who recognized an extraordinary time, and something worthy of their time, their sacrifice, even their life.