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Eternal Rest Grant Unto Them, O Lord | August 31, 2021

This last week was a reminder of the men and women who willingly place their lives in the line of fire to protect us.

Archbishop Listecki

Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee


For 23 years I served as a chaplain in the United States Army Reserves. I was activated a few times for service with the regular Army. In 1991, I was activated for Operation Desert Storm, and prepared to enter the country referred to as the “theater of action.” However, I never left the U.S. since the war quickly ended. I also served in a few special deployments in support of military exercises. I was proud to serve our country, and privileged to be side-by-side with the men and women who were dedicated to protecting our country and the freedoms we enjoy. Rarely does a month go by that I am not contacted by a former member of one of the units I served or a person from Fort Sheridan, Illinois, and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, which made up my congregations.
Therefore, it pained me to see the return from Afghanistan of our young men and women in the flag-draped coffins. There is always an understanding by service personnel who are placed in harm’s way that it could mean the loss of their lives. As a chaplain, I remember having to inform a family of the loss of a loved one due to an accident that took place stateside. It was gut wrenching, to say the least; to lose a son or brother is a terrible tragedy. It was only my sense of faith that offered some consolation to the grieving family. God’s love brings us hope, even during the darkest moments of our lives. 
This last week was a reminder of the men and women who willingly place their lives in the line of fire to protect us. The oldest service member of the thirteen that were lost was thirty-one years of age. Their lives were still ahead of them. We sometimes can be very cavalier about our lives and the freedoms that we enjoy. For those that stand in the breach — whether these men and women are Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force or Coast Guard — they are the deterrent to the enemies who desire to deny our way of life and steal from us our freedoms.
I remember a chaplain telling me of a religious sister that was a catechist instructing the children of the military personnel. She was an avowed pacifist. When asked how she could devote her time to teaching the children of the military soldiers that are trained for war, she proudly responded that she knows that Jesus offered his life for her salvation, and it is only in military personnel that she also sees willingness to lay down their life to protect hers. She does what she does in gratitude.
I was disturbed by the coffins of those thirteen service members. But, it also made me proud to know that the spirit that moved them to represent our country was a noble act that demonstrated a willingness to defend and affirm the freedoms of the country that we love. No one was burning these flags; no one was defaming these flags or dragging them in protest. These flags simply draped the coffins of our brothers and sisters as a sign of honor that supported the very best of those among us, and a reminder of why patriotic men and women get so upset when the flag is abused.
These men and women of our military have my respect and gratitude, but they also have my prayers. To the thirteen brought home, “Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and may perpetual light shine upon them…”  They represent an example for all of us of our responsibility to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Note: This blog originally appeared as the August 31, 2021 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.

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