I thought I would fly the flag here today, lacking a flagpole. And a little later out at the museum when it’s light, raise it there, too.
In honor of the 3,000 who died in terrorist attacks nine years ago at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania; to honor the 5,700 U.S. troops who have died since in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (1,171 U.S. lives lost there alone); to honor the 1,100 among allied forces who also have died; to honor troops alive and serving in those wars; and to honor every parent, spouse, sibling, child and loved one of those serving, whose lives are lived every day on the sharp edge of fear, something that will continue until their loved ones are safely home.
In remembrance of the allied combatants and innocents lost, tens of thousands of them, among the populations of Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere during these wars.
And especially in honor of Iowa’s own U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta, now 25, who last week became the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor named since Vietnam. A graduate of Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School, his family lives at nearby Hiawatha. Eight Medals of Honor now have been awarded during the Afghan/Iraq wars, seven posthumously. The latest of the posthumous awards went last week to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Although Giunta survived, all laid down their lives without hesitation or thought for their friends --- the only holy flame that burns amid the desolation of this or any other war.
Ted Kopell, in a Washington Post, opinion piece published Friday, offered the idea that through all of this we have collectively managed to meet and exceed Osama bin Laden’s most optimistic goals when he launched those Sept. 11 attacks --- the illusion that we were somehow invulnerable in this beautiful land protected by broad oceans was stripped way; our economy is in disarray as resources that could be expended on putting it right are expended instead on wars; and instead of actively seeking ways to resolve our differences and work together we seem increasingly to be turning on each other, some among us eager to launch a jihad, or holy war, on Islam.
These are not hopeful times. The easy way out is to allow despair and anger to fill us and flow outward from us. The other way, the Lord's way if you will, is expressed in a prayer attributed to St. Francis, although he didn’t write it. Hope lies in praying it as we raise our flags this morning, and every other morning, then going out to practice it.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.