During the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, World War I, “the war to end all wars” as it was called, came to an end when the Armistice with Germany was made official. The U.S. and other countries around the world commemorated the day as “Armistice Day.” It wasn’t until May 13, 1938, that it was made an official U.S. holiday by an act of Congress, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’” Later, in 1954, it was renamed “Veterans Day,” a day specifically set aside to honor our veterans of all wars.
The time and date of the signing of the Armistice in 1918, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, brings to mind a phrase using the same wording, “the eleventh hour,” that we occasionally hear used in our day and time. It is used to express that something happened at the latest possible time. For instance, “We got the order form turned in at the eleventh hour!” The phrase is actually taken from a parable Jesus told about the workers in the vineyard found in Matthew 20:1-16. In the parable, the landowner went out several times during the day to hire workers to go into his vineyard and work. Some were hired early in the day, others at midmorning and at noon, still others at midafternoon, and finally those that were hired about “the eleventh hour,” or right at the end of the day.
Many of our veterans today are facing their eleventh hours. Their lives are drawing to a close; it is time for their earthly journey to come to an end. There are veterans who will soon be at journey’s end due to wounds and loss of limbs sustained in combat. There are veterans who are suffering the ill effects of Agent Orange, which they were exposed to in Vietnam. There are veterans facing their eleventh hours who are sad and alone, many suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Sadly, there are veterans that are considering bringing their own eleventh hours to a close through suicide. Tragically, 22 veterans follow through with their suicidal consideration every day. Nor should we forget the veterans who still have many days and years before they face their eleventh hours and are suffering from the same maladies. To make matters even worse, many of these veterans do not know the love of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They are facing their eleventh hours without the joy of salvation in their hearts, totally unsure of what lies ahead. What these veterans are facing is totally unacceptable.
Veterans Day is advertised as a day to remember our veterans and the many sacrifices that they made to secure our freedom. I agree with that sentiment, but I would add a call to action. As you consider our veterans, please also consider reaching out with help for those in need, especially with the Gospel for all that do not know Jesus. They need to hear about how, out of love for them, Jesus came to earth and lived a perfectly sinless life in their place because they are unable to obey God’s commands perfectly as He demands. They need to hear how Jesus willingly sacrificed His life on the cross for the forgiveness of all their sins and rose again on the third day for their salvation. It will change their lives, not only here on earth before their eleventh hours come to a close, but, more importantly, for eternity. Knowing that Jesus shed His precious blood for them on the cross will help ease the darkness of their maladies with the light of salvation and will change their future of eternal damnation to eternal life in heaven before the throne of God.
If you are not in a position to reach out and personally help a veteran, there is still much you can do. You can pray for our veterans and their many needs. You can contact the Lutheran Military Support Group (lutheranmilitary.org) and support them as they strive to support our veterans.
A blessed Veterans Day to all our veterans. Thank you for your service and the many sacrifices you made to keep us free. The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His light to shine upon you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
Rev. Larry Wentzlaff