I'm in Atlanta for the weekend, working with an amazing group of young people. They are the General Convention Official Youth Presence. Two young people from each of the provinces chosen to bring the voice of young people to the highest councils of our church. I had the chance to work with a similar group of young people three years ago and the experience was just astounding. They were articulate voices for their age group and had a true effect on the conversations last time. As I get to know them better I'll share some of my thoughts with you.
I did have a truly wonderful experience when I arrived. At the Atlanta airport while I was waiting for some of the young people to arrive I sat in the large central waiting area. The Atlanta area has several military bases so you see a lot of military personnel in uniform in the airport. But four times a military unit would file through, some 50-100 men and women. When the units moved through everyone in the waiting area would begin to applaud. About 2/3s of us would also stand. The applause would continue until the last member of the unit passed through. I found myself moved deeply by the display. First because I'm the son of a Navy officer. He was on active duty the day I was born. The loneliness and pain of a military family, left behind while their loved one(s) are in harm's way have a special place in my heart.
The other reason is that I'm old enough to (just) remember the pain faced by the veterans returning from Viet Nam. What was done to the members of our armed forces at that time was a terrible, un-American act. It strikes to the very heart of the relationship between the nation and the military. And it's something that must never happen again.
What ever your opinion about the war may be we need to separate the policy from the troops. Those are citizen soldiers. Quite simply "they" are "us".
I was proud to applaud those soldiers. And I pray that every single one of them comes home to family and friends safely.