Veterans of Today — and Tomorrow

We received a letter in our office on the day we were finishing our Veterans Day issue, and wanted to share it right away. So we set aside the editorial we had prepared for this issue.

Veterans Day is bittersweet in times of war, because we aren’t just thanking those who served our country in the past. We are thinking of the many men and women who are serving our country overseas and in harm’s way today.

Many of these have families, and as our page-one coverage today and previous coverage attests, the sacrifice of serving in the armed forces is especially tough on families.

Pope John Paul II knew well the difficulty of military families. His father was an army officer. But he was also a scholar, so he was able to give very specific encouragement to the military families he met on the Jubilee of Armed Forces. He quoted the Acts of the Apostles chapter 10 about the centurion Cornelius who was “a devout man who feared God with all his household.”

Said the Pope, “He accepted the proclamation of Christ’s Gospel by Peter, to whom he gave hospitality for several days, and received baptism together with his family members. Thus, the first pagans to be baptized by Peter were members of a soldier’s family.”

John Paul pointed out that “It is not easy to be a soldier’s family, because even the hardships of his mission must be shared.” But he said it is precisely because they have families that soldiers are motivated to fight. “One defends what one loves and where does one learn to love peace and life if not in the family? Therefore, dear families, feel fully involved in this mission and collaborate in safeguarding justice and peace.”

Through the generosity of and with the blessing of former Archbishop for the Military Services Edwin O’Brien, the Register has been able to help serve families in the military by sharing with them the “family prayer” of the Church: the Rosary.

Our National Catholic Register Guide to the Rosary grew out of the special edition of the Register that we produced for the Year of the Rosary, 2002-2003. Those were also the years of the run-up and launching of the invasion of Iraq, and through a providential series of events we were able to produce a military version of our booklet and send it overseas. Since then, we have sent more than 100,000 copies of our Rosary booklet to armed service personnel.

Archbishop O’Brien told us in March, “Members of our Armed Forces, many serving far from home, have these booklets in their hands. As a result, Our Lady’s Rosary has become a great source of prayer, encouragement and inspiration as they serve our nation in the cause and pursuit of peace.”

We were honored to receive the following letter from several of them today:

“Dear Friends,

“I am writing to you in regard to invoice No. 9178 for 10 copies of the National Catholic Register’s Guide to the Rosary.

“When the order arrived and the invoice had PAID printed on it as well as NO CHARGE — GOD BLESS, I felt motivated to pen a personal thank you.

“First, a little background: My name is David Barret, I am staff sergeant assigned to the Second Battalion, 5th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry division based at Fort Hood, Texas. Currently, we are stationed at Camp Liberty, Iraq.

“We’ve been here since Oct. 20, 2006 and will return to the states some time in January, 2008.

“We have a devoted Catholic congregation and we are able to attend Mass on Sundays now that we have a Catholic priest.

“A small number of us started a Rosary group that meets daily at noon at our chapel. Some of us are able to attend daily, others when they can due to patrols and missions.

“About two months ago (in August), we came across a few copies of the Rosary Guide and it added a scriptural flavor to our rosary. We also experienced an increase in our Rosary group, a blessing and a testament to the yearning of Catholics here in Iraq for something spiritual.

“We didn’t have enough copies of the guide to go around, but we shared the few we had. This prompted me to look around on your website and order a few more copies. “I was surprised at how quickly they arrived — though I suppose I should have expected that.

“God has always been looking out for us since we arrived. Again, we have enjoyed adding a scriptural element to our rosaries — and our ‘Rosary Patrol’ continues to grow.

“We have offered one of our group Rosaries for all of you at Circle Media for your generosity. One of our group members suggested we send some type of Thank You to you and we all thought that was a great idea. So — thank you for your support!

“We also ask that you hold all of us serving here in Iraq in your prayers till the day we can all return home. We will continue to remember all of you in our prayer as well.”

It was signed by the whole Rosary group.

We return the thanks, Staff Sgt. Barret, and you can rest assured that we’re praying for all of you and all of our service men and women.