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Four smooth stones for Veterans Day

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

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When David prepared to fight the outsized Philistine soldier Goliath, the young and untested David refused to arm himself with the combat equipment of the day. Instead, the Bible explains, he used a sling and chose five smooth stones from a brook. David needed only one stone to dispatch his enemy.

What might those other four stones signify about the moral and spiritual dimensions of soldiering? And about what we owe to those who have served a higher cause in good faith?

Thanksgiving. Gratitude for those who've served their country as soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Air Force personnel wells up in so many of us without any prompting. Giving thanks – to veterans and to those on active duty – unites a people across all lines. Whether we wear our nation's flag on a lapel pin or less visibly cherish the values on which a country was built, we all have millions of reasons to thank God for those who've sacrificed to maintain our security.

Perhaps, like a pebble thrown into a lake, such thanksgiving begins with the serviceperson's own thanks to God for His help in times of fear or danger. We don't know all that was in David's heart when he volunteered to serve, but he went on to be credited as the author of psalms thanking God for His protection and deliverance, including the stirring words, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (Ps. 23:1). Thank you, God, for shepherding all who, in their own ways, serve You by serving us.

Willingness. David had to be willing to go before he could prove himself courageous for having gone. We pay due tribute to those who serve for their willingness to go into combat and struggle with its fears. But an equal sacrifice comes with those stretches of anxious waiting – the grind of training, long separations from family and friends, endless equipment maintenance, the uncertainties and unknowns of awaiting deployment, the encampment preparations and yet more waiting "in theater."

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