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Veterans Day is observed on November 11 each year as a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

I have known many veterans and have served as a military chaplain myself. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to all of our uniformed men and women who serve with honor, even as we continue to pray and work for a global community where conflicts and violence diminish and peace and prosperity prevail for all people.

Several years ago I was called to the bedside of a parishioner, retired U.S. Army Colonel Alphonso Topp. He had just died, surrounded by his loving wife and adult children. He was a career officer with an extraordinary military record, yet he was also a man of peace, a man of prayer, and a follower of Christ. He had a strong faith, and went to his grave with hope in the resurrection to eternal life.

As I reflected on his friendship and support I wrote this poem, which I shared at his memorial service.

This Veterans Day, take some time to remember and give thanks for the service and sacrifice of those wearing your country’s uniform.

A Fallen Soldier

His stature was unbowed even as his body
strained beneath the gravity of the years, even
as his legs faltered and refused to carry him.

Bravery is not enough in the end, nor is loyalty.
A man needs someone to care about, someone to
live beyond his appointed years and remember him.

It is the living who give testimony to the fallen—
who say he was the friend or the father I needed
when life cast its shadows over my dreams.

We mortals cannot know the day or the hour
when a soul shall gradually fold itself up
like the last tent on an abandoned battlefield.

The sun must finally set upon this life; then comes
a night of holy rest, the glow of dawn upon the hills,
and a bugle sounding forth a glorious new day.

Words (c) 2008, 2012 Mark Lloyd Richardson