Insights from Pastor Steve
Veterans Day: Dedicated to the Cause of World Peace
Veterans Day is not listed as a festival on the church calendar. Its mission, however, fits our hopes and it is a day to be honored. On May 13, 1938, the U.S. Congress declared November 11 as a legal holiday, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”
On Veterans Day I will remember a veteran, Nick Stimetz, my father-in-law, who served the cause of peace in the 103rd Infantry Division known as the Cactus Division. Under the command of General Anthony “Nuts” McAuliffe, his division penetrated the defenses of the Siegfried Line reaching the Rhine Valley in March, 1945.
They were shocked and horrified upon discovering the Kaufering concentration camp, a sub-camp of Dachau Concentration camp on April 27, 1945. “The grounds were littered with the skeletons of Jews, Poles, Russians, French and un-Nazified Germans.” writes Wendell Hall, one of the soldiers. Nick was fluent in German and served as a translator between the liberating Allied soldiers and the camp prisoners. The savagery he and his fellow soldiers came upon when entering the Nazi concentration camp was ghastly and beyond belief.
Upon his return to the states, Nick couldn’t talk about his experience. As his body aged and broke down, he could no longer suppress the concentration camp atrocities; memories of those days long past and suppressed came rushing back.
Wendell Hall, a soldier in the 103rd wrote a lengthy reminiscence of their journey to Kaufering: “Everyone in the civilized world should have a look at the photos of this division history. Throwing up will do us good…. Purify us. Of insouciance. Of forgetting. It will fill us with a terrible determination that such things will never be permitted to happen again. Yes, you do not need to bring to my attention the fact that similar things are happening right now. But we must not despair. We must not give up the fight. We must non-violently fight our own politicians, if necessary.” (Google Wendell Hall 103rd Cactus Division)
The world learned of the breadth and extent of the Nazi horror only after the camps were liberated.
I can’t stop today’s Neo-Nazi from marching or speaking his/her mind, but I can and will tell the story of the 103rd, my father-in-law’s Cactus Division, one of many stories of our WW2 Veterans who fought Hitler. I will tell their stories, praying truth will discredit the perverted ramblings of Holocaust deniers and put to shame any and all who give comfort to or embrace Nazi ideology.
Veterans Day is “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace,” which must mean more than merely passively wanting peace. Veterans Day must be given to the support of peaceful solutions to conflict, a pledge to resist violent behavior and a rejection of prejudice and intolerance.
Veterans Day will be a day of prayer: prayers of thanksgiving for those Veterans who served and prayers for strength, courage and commitment to the cause of world peace.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9