Where Are the Peacemakers?

Donna Vande Kieft

On June 6, we celebrated the heroes who were at Normandy Beach on that day 80 years ago. One survivor at 101 years old said, “I’ve done all the emoting I need to do over D-day.” He had gone back 30 years ago, and that was enough. Another survivor said, “The heroes are the ones who didn’t come home.”

My own father served in the South Pacific during WWII, and I’m glad he wasn’t at Normandy Beach that day. He came home and we’re all happy about that.

A friend, Ron Jensen, just published a book about his experience serving as a Marine in the Iraq war in 2006 and about coming home to live a “normal” life with a job, a wife, and kids. The title, An Otherwise Healthy Person. He and his squad survived some horrible near-death moments in Fallujah. But the war for his marriage and his very soul quietly raged when he returned to Michigan. Facing his demons through a lot of counseling, soul searching, and now telling his story is healing him. He and his wife and family appear to be a success story to celebrate, and they do. Still, there are things you can’t un-see. We continue to send our dear young men and women into harm’s way and lose too many veterans to suicide.

Kristin Hannah recently wrote, The Women, a historical fiction novel about the nurses who served in Vietnam. They were truly the unsung heroes of that era. There was not a place for them to be recognized as veterans when they returned. It has taken a long time for the American public to rightfully recognize the men and women who were sent to that ugly war.

As we think and read about the woundedness of the veterans who survived and the grief of loved ones of those who did not, along with current atrocities of war, the question arises: Where are the peacemakers? What have we learned from the terrible history of war? We are doing a pretty good job of thanking veterans and celebrating them, but what can be done to prevent the aftermath that leaves many veterans broken?

Our community has a group called Support Our Troops (SOT). They raise a lot of money for veterans, and they line our streets with flags for every military related holiday or remembrance. It was too hot to put out all the flags for D-Day, so they did a modified version with a perfect visual for the community. SOT is a good organization, led by generous volunteers.

There’s a wonderful song, a prayer really: “Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let it Begin With Me.” We celebrated another Memorial Day, D-Day, and the 4th of July will be here soon. Is it enough to celebrate our veterans and remember the dead with ceremonies, flags, parties, and fireworks? Is it enough to offer “thoughts and prayers”? Is there more we can be doing to be peacemakers? We all want to live in peace and be safe from harm.

Maybe the battle cry for Americans right now needs to be, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with us.”

Donna is an ordained minister, retired hospice chaplain, spiritual director, peacemaker, and volunteer reading tutor at Toltec Elementary School.