Each year on November 11th, we observe Veterans Day which had its beginnings with Armistice Day. The Armistice, that brought an end to World War I, was signed in France, at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918 which was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Twenty years later in 1938, Armistice Day became a holiday to honor World War I veterans. Then in 1954, following World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day to now honor American veterans of all wars.
As I reflect back on my family history, I’m both honored and grateful to have discovered veterans who have served in every major war in our nation’s history. The single names below represent the many brothers-in-arms in my family that served the United States of America during times of war.
American Revolution: CAPT Benjamin Spaulding (New Hampshire Militia)
Civil War: PVT Henry Spaulding (First Illinois Light Artillery)
World War I: SGT Edwin Momberger (309th Infantry)
World War II: SSGT Jim Spaulding (86th Infantry)
Korea: SGT Richard Buck (United Nations Command, Army Unit 8020)
Vietnam: SGT Bob Spaulding (35th Security Police Squadron)
Cold War: AMH2 Tony Spaulding (USS Forrestal (CV-59))
Persian Gulf War: TSGT Bryan Buck (332nd Air Expeditionary Wing)
When I think about a veteran, the following scriptures come to mind:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself.”James 2:14-17 (CSB)
As I ponder this idea of “faith without works is dead”, I’m reminded of our nation’s veterans. Just as our first patriots “put down their plows and picked up their muskets” during the American Revolution, many brave countrymen have continued to follow in their footsteps and serve the country they loved. Throughout history, when war was on the horizon, our military veterans could have had “faith” that liberty would prevail, but in their hearts they knew something must be done. Action must be taken. Their “works” was to go and fight for freedom. Brave young men and women since the days of the American Revolution have realized that faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
A Good Day at Sea
Our U.S. military does so much more than fight wars. Our veterans are a shining pillar of freedom and democracy as they deploy around the world. As I again contemplate that scripture from James chapter 2, I’m reminded about a certain day at sea from my time in the United States Navy.
In the Spring of 1987, I was serving aboard the guided-missile cruiser, USS Dale (CG-19), operating in the Mediterranean Sea. We spotted a yacht on the horizon in a state that we call “dead in the water” meaning it had no propulsion – its engines were inoperable. They had no power, no radar, and no radio communications. They were just drifting at sea.
My ship maneuvered alongside this yacht finding a husband, wife, and their young children. They were in pretty sad shape. There was no telling how long they had been adrift in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
Now, my ship’s commanding officer could have said to this family: “Hey folks, we are a U.S. Navy warship on our way to the Middle East for some pressing matters, so we hope you can get underway soon.” My captain could have also stated, as did the writer James in the Bible, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed.”
No, the captain and crew of the USS Dale (CG-19) didn’t convey either of these disclaimers. We took action.
Our ship’s boatswain’s mates lowered one of our small boats in the water, maneuvered alongside the yacht, loaded the family onboard, and brought them back to the safety our ship. We gave them warm blankets, had our Navy Corpsman check them out, and gave them something to eat. I’ll never forget the look of desperation on that family’s faces.
We then rigged a towing line to their yacht and towed it to the nearest port in Italy, returning this family to safety. It was sad to say goodbye to our ship’s adopted family. But it was, however, a good day at sea; a day in which faith with works/actions prevailed.
Albert Spalding – The Musician Patriot
Here is a much more intriguing story of faith and works. This is the story of a distant cousin of mine named Albert Spalding.
Albert was regarded by some as the first American-born violinist to gain international recognition. In 1902, at age fourteen, Albert Spalding received the Degree of Professor of Music from the Bologna Conservatory in France graduating with honors. Did you catch that – he was just fourteen! Albert Spalding’s first American appearance as a soloist occurred in 1908 with the New York Symphony. He was introduced as “the first great instrumentalist this country has produced”.
Albert’s music career was temporarily interrupted by World War I after he enlisted in the U.S. Army at age twenty-six. Private Albert Spalding was assigned to an early Aviation Unit in the American Expeditionary Force. He served in logistics and maintenance for U.S. combat aircraft in England and France during World War I.
At age fifty-four, Albert Spalding’s patriotism was once again brought to bear when he answered the call – this time to serve in World War II. As a civilian, he was assigned to the Psychological Warfare Branch of the Office of War Information. This unit used radio and leaflet propaganda to undermine German soldier’s morale. Albert Spalding was fluent in Italian and several other European languages and his radio broadcasts helped support the Italian resistance and aided in the eventual liberation of Italy.
During Albert Spalding’s service in World War II, a fascinating story highlighting the power of music emerged. In 1944, as an allied aerial bombardment of Naples, Italy was underway, Albert took cover in a cave shelter with hundreds of frightened refugees that were near panic.
Albert Spalding had faith that they would be safe in that cave. But at the same time, the screams of the children and the crying of the mothers as the bombs exploded above were heart-retching to him. And then, there was that look of absolute hopelessness on the faces of the men. Albert had to do something. He had to take action. And here’s a first-hand account on how the story unfolded.
“Albert Spalding borrowed a violin from a musician he observed in the crowd and he began to play. As the first tones of Beethoven’s Concerto floated unaccompanied throughout that cave shelter, the cries and moans instantly ceased. By the time the concerto was ended, peace, calm, and quiet had been brought, if only for a brief space, to those wretched people. People present on that occasion have written and stated that they had never heard such a great performance – nor had they ever seen the power of music so convincingly illustrated.”
Indeed, faith without works – faith without action – is dead.
The Veteran’s Spouse
As I wrap up today’s post, let me conclude by saying that we veterans really appreciate and value the verbal thanks we oftentimes receive for our military service on Veteran’s Day. Thank you for doing that.
But we also need to remember the sacrifices made by our military spouses. Extended deployments are a time of deep loneliness for military spouses. They carry the weight of the family on their shoulders during those demanding times. The bills need to be paid, the sick kids need to be comforted, the grass needs to be cut, the toilet needs to be fixed, and the list goes on and on. And in addition to these responsibilities, most military spouses need to work outside the home to make ends meet.
So, the next time you see a Veteran and thank them for their service to our country, be sure to also thank that veteran’s spouse for their sacrifice as well.
Happy Veterans Day!
- “pexels-brett-sayles-1340504.jpg” by Brett Sayles was accessed from https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-standing-on-stage-facing-an-american-flag-1340504/ on August 6, 2022. All photos and videos on Pexels are free to use.
- “USS-Dale-(CG-19).jpeg” is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, it is in the public domain in the United States.
- “Albert-Spalding.webp by Encyclopedia Britannica was accessed from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Albert-Spalding#/media/1/557964/213384 on August 6, 2022.