June 17, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

The ongoing struggle between war and peace

This spring, Paul and I drove through Fort Riley, Kan., where we viewed a water tower painted with “America’s Warfighting Center.” My stomach did a flip-flop. I wondered why that couldn’t instead read “America’s Peacekeeping Center.”

Recently, I found better information about Fort Riley on the Internet, which states “Fort Riley, America’s Warfighting Center, is known for its excellent training, abundant recreational opportunities, rich history and tremendous relations with surrounding communities… .” (Readers can learn more by logging onto www.riley.army.mil/).

Since first struggling with the “warfighting center” idea, I have prayed and grown beyond my initial knee-jerk reaction. I’ve also meditated on the differences and similarities between words like “peace” and “war” or “love” and “hate.” Depending upon motives and choices, there is only a fine line between them even though they seem to be direct opposites.

Then, on Memorial Day, when our nation honored Americans lost in war efforts, I read statistics in an Indianapolis Star editorial giving the numbers of dead patriots since the Revolutionary War.

“Behind those numbers were individuals with hopes and dreams cut short, families and friends in mourning,” the editorial added.

I once wrote a column for The Criterion that said the same thing. Most of us realize that those deaths included fathers, sons, grandfathers, grandsons, uncles, brothers, nephews—even priests and ministers who were chaplains. The same applies to enemy forces. (I especially mention men here because Father’s Day is upon us, not to slight women who have also died in service to our country.)

After reading the Star editorial, I found on the next page a “My View” column: “War forces us to make choices about love” by Gregory S. Clapper, a professor of religion and philosophy at the University of Indianapolis and also a Lieutenant Colonel and chaplain with the Indiana Air National Guard. Clapper clarifies the difficult decisions that servicemen and women face in war.

During recent deployment, Chaplain Clapper was at Landstuhl Hospital in Germany leading a psychiatric ward wellness group. When a soldier noted how it is impossible to be a Christian in war, some in the group agreed and some disagreed. Clapper counseled them wisely. His also shares in his column a profound moment of truth he experienced at a German cemetery.

Lt. Col. Gregory Clapper’s thoughts are so powerful and important that I cannot summarize them well enough to share here. Instead, I contacted the author for permission to share photocopies of his column with Criterion readers who ask for his May 30 “My View” from The Indianapolis Star. Requests can be made by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to me at 5948 Hillside, W. Dr., Indianapolis, IN 46220.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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