By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published May 27, 2010 | En Español
For the past six years I have observed the tradition of celebrating Mass on Memorial Day at one of our two national cemeteries here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta—either the new cemetery in Canton or the historic cemetery in Marietta. Both places resonate with the cherished memories of thousands of our military veterans and their families who are interred there. Both cemeteries hold the legacy of bravery that our American military personnel have bequeathed to this nation in their dedication and sacrifices for our freedom. I am happy to observe with so many of you who annually attend these Masses a moment of gratitude for the heritage of service that these places enshrine.
Yet there are other important ways that we can express our admiration and gratefulness for our military personnel. A number of the service people return home with needs that are quite unique because of the experiences that they have endured in military armed conflicts. All of them need our prayerful assistance and warm welcome in helping them to transition from a life with armed conflict to a quiet life at home once again. Some need additional support to make this happen.
This particular Memorial Day many service personnel from the 48th Infantry Brigade of the Georgia National Guard will be undergoing a reentry time in their lives along with veterans from the other branches of service as they return from combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. These men and women are the sons and daughters of our communities, and their families will no doubt be thrilled beyond words to have them safely home with them again. These young men and women will be reunited as members of their families and that blessing will enrich our parishes and communities in untold ways.
Yet some of these returning personnel will also need time and extra understanding as they try to set aside the recollections of some of the horrible events that they may have encountered and return to the tranquility of life at home. They will need our love and patience, as this transition is sometimes quite traumatic for them and for their families.
There is an interfaith nonprofit organization located here in Georgia that assists in this sometimes delicate process called “Care for the Troops.” This association, comprised of excellent people, is available to assist parishes, families and returning military personnel in helping to reestablish the bonds of love and interpersonal outreach that will make it easier for our service personnel to come home with the dignity and with the inner peace that they so richly deserve.
If you would like to know more about this organization, please go to their website www.CareForTheTroops.com. Our own Catholic Charities has been involved with this effort, and I encourage our parishes to consider becoming more actively engaged in this fine work.
After all, Memorial Day is about more than simply pausing to remember those who have served us so generously in the past. It is also an occasion to consider ways to honor both the memories of deceased veterans and the needs of our veterans today.
I invite all of our parishes to include a special prayer in our Sunday Eucharist this weekend for those who have served us in the military and to consider becoming a “Veteran Friendly Congregation” or supporting and strengthening the parish’s military ministry so that those who are returning to us will know the depth of our gratitude and love.