Ever since the first Gulf War way back in 1991, the churches I have served have set aside a special day to honor our military veterans. Most of the time we set a time for a special observance on the 4th of July. A couple of times, the veterans were recognized on Memorial Day.
Last year, we finally settled on the most appropriate day to honor these brave men and women — Veteran’s Day. Yet, there’s another group of heroic men and women who put their lives at risk day after day that we have not recognized every year.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the nation has come to appreciate the sacrifices and courage of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel, and others who serve society on the home front. Like the military, these professionals are regularly taken for granted until a crisis or a catastrophe occurs. Like the military, they run into danger when nearly everyone else is running away.
This past week, I was talking with two law enforcement officers in our church and shared with them that I wanted to include them, and others, in the recognition given on Veteran’s Day.
One, a federal officer, and then the other, a local police officer, vehemently protested my intentions. “Veteran’s Day is for the veterans. It’s their day and no one else should be included.” The other agreed completely.
Neither of these men has served in the military but both have faced danger on numerous occasions. One received the “police purple heart” for injuries sustained while affecting an arrest. Both have spent time away from families and have received thanks over their years of service.
To me, these folks are “domestic warriors” who fight fires, disasters, death, destruction, and criminals—they are veterans in their own right. Yet, neither would budge. Veteran’s Day is for veterans.
One suggested that “Patriot Day,” the day set aside in remembrance of 9/11, would be more appropriate for them. I objected, saying, “But we missed this year’s Patriot Day! It will be almost an entire year before we would get around to recognizing you.”
One man said, “We’ll wait.” The other nodded in agreement.
Is it any wonder that firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMS personnel and others should be considered heroes? It seems sometimes that the only recognition they get is when something goes wrong. Then, everybody wants to pile on. Society forgets that these are the men and women hold the fabric of that very society together.
Whenever a siren is heard or blue lights or red lights are flashing, someone’s husband, father, son, mother, wife, or daughter is rushing to offer assistance. Sometimes they will be going into a flaming, smoke-filled building, or to the carnage of a terrible crash, or to face an enemy who will try to kill them. But go they do.
They will not get rich, they will not often be thanked, and often their health or their family life will suffer. And, like the two men last week, when one does try to thank them, they will defer to others they deem more worthy.
All are reasons why they should be appreciated, recognized, respected, and thanked. Heroes never think of themselves as heroes. But they are.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at email@example.com.]