Veterans Day began as Armistice Day at 11 o’clock on 11/11/1918—when the peace was signed for the war to end all wars. Unfortunately that soon proved to be premature—and so Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a day when we honor all living veterans.
Memorial Day’s origins go back further—back to the Civil War when women decorated the graves of their fallen sons and husbands. The roots of a national Memorial Day—a day for remembering those who gave their lives in service to country, goes back to 1866 in Waterloo, New York.
There are some prayers in The Book of Common Prayer that can help guide us this weekend. I find it helpful whenever I reflect on war to begin by praying for peace. There are prayers on page 815-816 of the Prayerbook "For the Human Family,” “For Peace,” and “For Our Enemies.” It seems to me that as people of faith we begin there, because the best way to honor those who have given their lives in war is to work for peace, for the day when they study war no more. We know that the costs of war are astronomical—not only the incalculable human loss but also because of the financial and emotional resources that are spent on swords rather than on plowshares.
There are prayers on page 820-823 of the Prayerbook for our own nation, for our leaders, for sound government, and for members of the armed forces—as well as for those who suffer for the sake of conscience. I find praying for our leaders is important (whether or not we agree with the administration that currently holds office) because it reminds us that we are one nation, indivisible...
And we can, of course, pray the prayer on page 839 “For Heroic Service,” found below:
O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom, and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.