Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Bishop Doug Fisher
Published: 5:00 a.m. ET Nov. 6, 2021, Updated: 2:47 p.m. ET Nov. 6, 2021
Thursday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day. I’m not a veteran but I was the civilian Episcopal Chaplain to the United States Military Academy at West Point in the 1990s. I have many powerful stories I could tell from that time, but this one stands out.
It was the summer and the new cadets were engaged in Cadet Basic Training. Also known affectionately as Beast Barracks. One day, I was there when the cadets were on a timed run. If they came across the finish line over a certain time, they would have to run the course again. Partway through the run one cadet started to stagger. He was clearly exhausted. Immediately, two cadets ran up behind him and draped his arms across their shoulders and carried him. In doing that, they knew they would not get to the finish line in the required time and they would have to repeat the run. But they made that sacrifice without a moment’s hesitation.
The Rev. Jim Munroe, a priest of our diocese, is a veteran who served in Vietnam. He tells another story of two friends who also served together there in the Marine Corps: “One of the friends was wounded and fell to the ground. The other friend was behind shelter and saw him. He wanted to go get his friend but his lieutenant wouldn’t allow it because of heavy enemy fire. The Marine went anyway. He got to his friend, carried him back and he was wounded in the process. When he placed his friend on the ground, he saw that he was dead. The lieutenant said, ‘What a waste and now you are wounded.’ The Marine said, ‘No sir, it wasn’t a waste. When I got to him he was alive and he said, I knew you would come.’”
Jim goes on to say, “For me, Veterans Day is a time of praying for all veterans that they might be able to say ‘I knew you would come’ to all those men and women, famous and obscure, who will bring us healing and reconciliation and peace.”
John Paradis is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, an Iraq War vet. John says there is an estimate that as many as 30 per cent of veterans suffer from PTSD and that includes many who did not serve in a combat zone. John says that often when a person leaves the military, they experience a loss of “identity, belonging and purpose.”
So how can we help with that? One way is in supporting organizations that support veterans. There are many out there. The VFW, Soldier On, The Wounded Warrior Project are a few. One that is affiliated with my diocese is Building Bridges. The Building Bridges strategy is simple. We bring veterans together for weekly or monthly meals and nurture a spirit of camaraderie. These meals enable authentic veteran-oriented communities to flourish. In this way we are hoping to provide “identity, belonging and purpose.” There are twelve of these communities through Western and Central Massachusetts serving over 400 vets. Hopefully it gives them an experience of “I knew you would come.”
And here’s another way. It comes at the end of this story told by The Rev. Chris Carlisle, the Executive Director of Building Bridges. All of our Building Bridges sites are now open but during the height of the pandemic they were closed for health safety. During the pandemic a Building Bridges veteran, and a marine who served in Vietnam, spotted Chris on the street. He said to Chris: “I never realized how much I would miss Building Bridges until the pandemic.” And then as he was walking away, he turned and called out, “Tell ’em you want to thank me for my service? Tell ‘em no more war!”
May we honor our veterans by doing exactly that.
For more information about Building Bridges, go to buildingbridgesveterans.org.