“A vast array of young men fell on the battlefields; today we are here to honor their graves,” Pope Benedict XVI, “The Responsibility of Christians for Peace.”
Veteran’s Day is a day which we set aside to reflect upon and honor the heroic self-sacrifice of those who served our nation and the world with military service. Catholics know and realize the difficulty of being involved in the military, yet they know and realize that those who engage such service with dignity and moral integrity deserve our respect and appreciation. We must recognize the need for the military in a fallen world, but we also understand that soldiers can be put in difficult situations where they must wrestle with their conscience and decide if the actions they are being called upon to do are moral or not, and if they are not, they are required to follow their conscience even if it costs them their lives. In doing so, they honor the real integrity of military service and its rightful limits, because military service clearly has limits and if they are abandoned, then the soldier must abandon their post as Sts George and Demetrius did in the past (which, as a result, helped sanctify that very post).
One who desires peace does not have to be opposed to the military. They should respect those who take up service because that is exactly what it is, service, and service for the sake of others is a high calling reflecting in part the service Christ has done for us. That their service can be abused should not be used to denigrate the service itself. Catholics should understand all dualistic interpretations of the world are in error. What is good can and should be praised wherever it is found so that the good can increase. Of course, for the good to be good, it needs to be beautiful and united with the truth, and any privation of one is a privation in the good and shows what needs to be worked upon, that is, what needs to be perfected. But that is the point: we are called to serve others, to be for others in communion with others, and thus the noble soldier can be and indeed often is a great saintly image for us to look up to and imitate. Of course, as with all such figures, we must learn what it is that makes them holy and not imitate them in folly – no one would want to follow St Jerome in insulting St Augustine, I would hope—and thus, it does not mean we must do exactly as the heroes of old did. We must recognize what good their work aimed for, such as helping to provide a place in the world where human dignity could be recognized, and work for that same goal, perhaps with different means according to the different situation we find ourselves in. Yet it is in doing so, by continuing their good work, we do what is the best thing we can do to honor them.