By FATHER JOHN KIERAN, Commentary | Published November 14, 2019
Veterans Day on Nov. 11 was an occasion to honor all of our esteemed service people. Many throughout the country gathered for parades, and similar events to remember and give thanks to the millions of veterans who have served in any branch of the military.
Veterans Day is a time for all citizens to pay respects to those who have served—both the retired and the active, their families and their supporters. It is a time for joyful celebration to honor ones we should not forget.
Originally called Armistice Day, Nov. 11 recalls the ending of World War I, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. In 1954 the new name, Veterans Day, was established so as to emphasize the debt owed to all our service people for their heroic human contribution.
My work at the Veterans Hospital in Decatur makes me more aware of the sacrifice made by veterans. As you walk the halls and visit hospital floors you see much evidence of human cost: amputees, young people confined to wheel chairs, dejected faces with the marks of PTSD and the pitiful stories of nightmare nights. It is estimated that there are 50,000 homeless vets in the U.S. Many have deep feelings of rejection and guilt.
Fortunately, we have a strong chaplain’s team led by an innovative chief. All chaplains strive proactively to deliver comfort and hope to hospitalized patients and at 14 satellite service centers across northeast Georgia. As a staff chaplain, I prioritize visiting all known Catholic patients. I am assisted by Deacon Tom Badger and Bruce Goodwin, deacon aspirant, who both do rounds with me.
We find many patients disconnected from parish life, thus we have the opportunity to reunite and spiritually renew our Catholic veterans, with the help of God’s grace.
Our mission at the VA is “outcome” oriented. Each patient and care recipient is assessed so as to achieve the “outcome” most appropriate. Staff at the Atlanta VA promise:
-To provide care second to none, the best care anywhere;
-To maintain and expand veteran’s healthcare services whenever possible;
-To ensure that every veteran will be personally satisfied with the care that they receive based on the highest quality of outcome.
Family and friends can assist VA chaplains:
-By making sure that the patient’s religious preference is recorded on admittance forms;
-When acute illness occurs, by phoning the chaplain’s office at 404-321-6111, ext. 6870. This is especially important when the patient cannot speak for themselves.
-By attending Monday Mass at 11:30 a.m. in the VA chapel;
-By offering daily prayers for the wellbeing of veterans and staff.
Keeping Veterans Day affects all. All benefit from the service rendered by our vets to ensure our freedom and protection. All rely on current military personnel for our continued liberties and peace. Certainly, all should participate in some public way to show gratitude and appreciation for veterans, past, present and to come.
So, let all honor our Veterans for their patriotism, love of country, willingness to serve, and sacrifice for the common good. We are indebted to you.
Father John Kieran, senior priest, serves on the chaplaincy team at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur.