By Father Charles “Chuck” Fuld
Long before I became a Catholic priest, some 37 years ago, I served as a Naval officer for 22 years. It is because of those Navy years that I cherish the following story every Veterans Day.
I was the pastor of a parish here in San Diego, when I was confronted with the need to celebrate a funeral Mass for an elderly man I hardly knew. He had no relatives that I was aware of, only friends and neighbors.
The eulogy, given by one of those neighbors, was brief and bland to the point that I decided to walk into the modest gathering with a cordless microphone in my hand and ask various persons, “… And what do you remember about him?”
After a while, I gave up and was heading back to the sanctuary, when I noticed a man seated all by himself. I stopped and asked him the same question, and he replied. “Oh, he saved my life during the war.”
Suddenly, everything seemed to stop as he told a little bit of the story of his war-time buddy’s act of courage that saved his life. You can well imagine the shock and surprise. No, he had never mentioned his war-time service, much less that he was a hero.
You can also imagine how everyone present gathered around the stranger after the funeral Mass to learn more about the friend and neighbor they thought they had known all those years.
Sure, there are many veterans who have shared their stories; some have suffered great physical losses in war that needed to be explained. But there are also many veterans who have put aside all these memories for some reason and are content just being a good friend, relative or neighbor.
Look around and you’ll find men and women who helped save our country in time of war — or in troubled times like these. That’s why, at all the Masses that I celebrate, I include in the Prayers of the Faithful a petition for “all the men and women who serve our country in the military here and overseas.” I also pray for “all police officers, firefighters and first responders – and their families.”
Veterans Day, like Memorial Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day, is an occasion to remember and give thanks for all those who may have saved our lives — and our country, too!
Father Charles “Chuck” Fuld formerly served as editor of The Southern Cross.