Marvin Repinski: They walked in our shoes

Published 5:37 pm Friday, November 12, 2021

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand; and if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”  (The Bible, Mark 3:24-25).

In the history of our world we have come to know most nations have been born out of war. For our own United States, a president most elevated is Abraham Lincoln. He was a president who spent years of his life in the conflict, leading citizens attempting to carve out a land of peace, equal opportunity, and a way of establishing a process of negotiating differences.

The conflict he sought to end, through democratic agreements, ended with the terror of his assassination.

We live among veterans whose lives we praise. Our nation gives sacred recognition to the men and women who have, by their own deaths, said “Please never forget us!”  My deepest feelings, honest by my work as a clergyperson in a Methodist Church, created a sensitivity that abhors events and persons who find reasons to “go to war.” Yet, as a realist I believe that negative sense is reversed on behalf of what is often termed a necessity, an action to advance a higher good.

To serve in the military is action that is not entered, I believe, to take life, destroy property, or bring blight to the future of others. It is, for the most part, a participation in a career to advance the possibility of a peaceful world. It is to engage at great risk to enter covenants to reduce the carnage, the madness and the demonic onslaughts of action destroying humanity. Those who serve with honor to, and in the creation of, a world of peace are to be honored.

When I have been asked as a minister to officiate at the funeral service of a person who gave their all in the struggle for a peaceful world, I walk in that person’s shoes. Tears and every good deed done for the family softens the sorrow. Parents and children will be different people living in the shadow of a loved one killed in war.

My ministry has been a kind of loyalty to continue a relationship, to raise money, to give gifts to the children or a parent who did survive the battles of war. Those who are still alive, whether at home or in nursing homes, need added support for their bodies and livelihood to continue day-to-day.

In a book I’m reading, “War and Genocide” by Doris L. Bergen, a synagogue in Ober Ramstadt, Germany is pictured among the many photographs in the book. Smoke rises from the roof, while residents of the area stand by, lacking the strength to save their place of worship. They appear stunned and I would have been too.

The cutline of this photo, taken by a young man from an anti-Nazi family, was affected to the heart as the fire department prevented the blaze from spreading. Along with many Jewish homes and businesses, this synagogue-burning was widespread.

Following Kristallnacht a massive persecution continued. Records from September 1939, reveal that half of the Jews in Germany — some 300,000 people — left for other places that for a limited time provided safety.

It is for many reasons that I write this essay. It is to encourage our schools to teach in a responsible manner the history of racism and the manner that the wars among nations again and again inflame the world.

The day our nation honors those who have served in the military is a necessity.  Veterans Day and its lessons are suited for citizens to continue to be aware of their sacrifice. We continue to be thankful for their contributions.

Today there are other groups being tortured, exterminated, and fleeing their homelands. I suggest students read novels like those of Cynthia Ozick. The lessons presented can be applied to the present. This writer, the child of Russian-Jewish immigrants, was educated at Ohio State University.  Among her novels and essays, especially “Levitation:  Five Fictions,” reveals the psychological aftermath of the Holocaust. This event slaughtered at least six-million Jews and has created a worldwide memory of what happens when human beings become monsters or sympathizers.

In doing the reading for this essay I am a bit dizzy. Welcomed are the priests, pastors, rabbis, and religiously trained people and the array of people in the nursing and medical professions who create friendships. Prayers, visits by neighbors, and affirming mental health programs, medication and therapies are available for the many thousands across our nation (and other nations) who have survived war. Many with life-long wounds are being assisted in their lives. The savagery of what was done, does not leave us alone. Veterans, you are the people who deserve the best gifts of our nation!  We will continue to walk in your shoes!

“The Lord is near to those who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him faithfully.”  (Psalm 145:19)