Ninety-eight years ago, on November 11, 1918, Georgians awoke to the Monday morning headline in The Atlanta Constitution: “Germans Sign Armistice: World War Comes to End.”
The Great War – the “war to end all wars” – was over. Americans rejoiced. Two decades later, in 1938, as rumbles of yet another world war threatened the planet, November 11 became an official national holiday, a time set aside to remember our nation’s veterans. Americans were encouraged to commemorate the day “with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations…”
Seventy-two years ago next month, on December 17, 1944, Georgia’s Private Robert Leroy Green and his ten African-American comrades, all part of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion, were brutally massacred by German soldiers in the small village of Wereth, Belgium. In the spring, when the snow began to melt and examiners discovered their bodies, they discovered small Bibles in the men’s pockets. The New Testament, with Psalms included, had been a gift from President Franklin Roosevelt to each entering member of the Armed Forces. The flyleaf held a special message from the White House:
January 25, 1941: As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries, men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul. Very sincerely yours, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
During America’s involvement in WWII (1941-1945), like Private Robert Leroy Green, some 320,000 Georgians served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and countless other Georgians worked in needed wartime industries.
Many wars have followed the first two World Wars, requiring the heroic and sacrificial services of our dedicated veterans. They have taught us that freedom isn’t free. It is costly.
How can Southern Baptist churches pay special tribute to and honor war veterans within their congregations this Veteran’s Day? Here are some suggestions:
During Sunday Morning Worship Services:
- Celebrate and honor veterans with a special service of gratitude and thanksgiving, thanking them for their service to the country.
- Invite a veteran or chaplain to give a testimony or message to the congregation.
- Ask veterans within the congregation to stand (if they wish to).
- Invite the loved ones of those presently serving in the Armed Forces to stand.
- Recognize service men and women who are getting ready to deport to various areas in the world.
- Offer thanksgiving and support for Southern Baptist military chaplains who minister full time, or in volunteer roles, to U.S. service men and women. (For more than 150 years, the SBC has endorsed chaplains in all major conflicts.)
- Have a time of special focused prayer for the veterans, their family members, the United States, elected officials, and others.
For more information on ways your church can honor its veterans, please see these NAMB resources.