More than 20 Catholics gathered around the pavilion’s stone altar at the Little Rock National Cemetery Saturday morning Nov. 11 to honor all who have served the country.
Attendees wore patriotic colors and hats embroidered with “veteran” as they braved cold winds to celebrate Mass among rows of headstones where other veterans had been laid to rest.
Father Bhaskar Malapolu, associate pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock, celebrated the 9 a.m. Mass following a flag presentation by the Knights of Columbus color corps. Deacon Jim Goodhart assisted.
Veterans Day originated in the armistice that ended World War I in 1918. The armistice between Germany and the Allies went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared the day “Armistice Day.” In 1954, Congress renamed the federal holiday Veterans Day.
In his homily, Father Malapolu called attention to all of the sacrifices that our nation's veterans have made.
“Every November, our nation comes together to remember and honor the service and sacrifices of our veterans,” Father Malapolu said. “Veterans Day is a time to give thanks for our brave men and women who have served and are serving our nation in the armed forces tirelessly every day so we can enjoy freedom. … Veterans Day also celebrates qualities such as sacrifice, loyalty and commitment to the greater good. Our nation’s veterans proudly keep us free and protected and defend our constitution. The United States of America should be very proud of our veterans and all that they have accomplished. We should also remember to pray for them.”
Father Malapolu also said the families of veterans should be recognized as well for their commitment to family members who serve.
“I’ve often heard people say that veterans are heroes,” Father Malapolu said. “We need to remember that our veterans are not just heroes on the battlefield. They are also heroes in our communities. They are our neighbors, our friends, our family members. They continue to serve long after their service comes to an end. They continue to make a difference in the lives of those around them. This Veterans Day, let us not forget the wives, husbands, children who had to watch their children, husbands, father, brothers, leave for far off places. They endured being without husbands, fathers, brothers, for months, sometimes years. They endured loneliness and hardships, not knowing if their loved ones would return.”
Father Malapolu recalled the story of St. Martin of Tours as an example to follow.
A soldier in the Roman cavalry, St. Martin encountered a naked soldier in the dead of winter and tore his military robe in half to give to the man for warmth. Later, Christ told Martin that the saint had clothed him when he clothed the naked man. Soon, Martin left the military to give his life to Christ.
“He went from serving one of the most powerful emperors on earth to serving the one true God,” Malapolu said. “While we are all gathered here today, we may not all be veterans of the military, but we are all called to become veterans for God. We are soldiers for God, called to be saints. In Scripture, military metaphors are often used to speak of Christian discipleship. What does it mean when we use the expression, ‘a soldier for Christ?’ It is a Christian who is committed and faithfully following and serving the Lord Jesus. While soldiers endure the hardships of the battlefield, so too must Christians endure the hardships of their day as they live out their faithfulness through the Christian way of life.”
Jimmy McKinnon, a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 812 and parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in North Little Rock (Marche), was part of the color guard for the Veterans Day Mass. He said the Knights of Columbus have been involved with the Veterans Day Mass for many years.
“A big goal for the Knights of Columbus is to help the veterans in the state of Arkansas any way we can, along with parishes in the state,” McKinnon said. “A lot of us are veterans, and we feel very strongly about getting involved — it means a lot to us. The more we can help our veterans, the better.”
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