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November 13, 2015 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner

Inspired to Serve

To celebrate Veteran's Day this week I went to see a wonderful film entitled Honor Flight.  The showing of the film was part of a large celebration for veterans hosted by a local church and also included a panel of remarkable World War II veterans, all of whom appear in Honor Flight.  It was an evening that two hundred of us will never forget, an evening where everyone who heard about the heroic service of these veterans was moved to tears over and over again.  My only regret is that I forgot bring a box of Kleenex with me.  

     The film is first and foremost about the service of hundreds of World War II veterans.  In and of itself, that was moving and inspiring beyond words.  But there was something else moving about the film Honor Flight, in that it captured the hard work and commitment of hundreds of community volunteers, who as the website for the film describes,  "raced against the clock to send every local WWII veteran to see the memorial built in their honor."  These community volunteers from Milwaukee, Wisconsin came together to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and then worked to solve the logistical challenges of giving veterans in their 80's and 90's the chance to visit the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.  

     One thing that speaks to the passion of those who volunteered was their determination that each veteran be accompanied on his or her trip by either a family member or volunteer "guardian."  Guardians not only volunteered their time, but additionally paid $500 for the privilege of accompanying the veterans on their journey.  And many of the guardians featured in the film had never met the veteran they would spend an unforgettable day with until the actual day of the trip.

    All in all, this film, like Veteran's Day itself, is a celebration of the importance and power of selfless service.  Service to others, service to a higher purpose, is what both defines and brings out the best of who we are. Service, of course, is not just reserved for veterans and volunteers who serve veterans.  In fact, in the Honor Flight movie one veteran is featured tearfully talking about how he faithfully served and cared for his wife who had recently died after being bedridden for seven years.  He tells about how his wife's doctor had complemented him on the amazing care he had given her. In the interview this gentleman makes it clear that he is just as proud of his service to his wife as he was of his service to his country. This was a reminder of how there are countless opportunities for any of to serve today, within our families, within our communities, as well as by serving our country.

     I am always moved by Veterans Day celebrations, no doubt because my father served in World War II and was among the very first to land crafts loaded with tanks and other young soldiers such as himself on Utah Beach on D-Day.  This year, having seen the movie Honor Flight, I am inspired and more committed than ever to think of ways I can also be of greater service to others.  I highly recommend getting the movie, Honor Flight,  if you haven't seen it.  Be prepared to be inspired to find new ways that you, too, can be of service to others and... and be prepared with a box of Kleenex.

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