High ways of honor for veterans in Oregon

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” Jose Narosky.

A road trip to Portland revealed that Oregon is a great state for honoring veterans. I don’t think I saw an unmarked road or highway NOT dedicated or designated to veterans.

U.S. Highway 395 is designated as a World War 1 Veterans Memorial Highway.
Highway 5 is designated as Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway and Purple Heart Trail. U.S. Highway 97 and Interstate 84 is known as World War II Veterans Historic Highway and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway join up and is a way to recognize veterans from border to border. There are 70,000 miles of highway designated as Blue Star Memorial Highways in the US.

I don’t know a lot about American veterans but a little research revealed of the 331,600 veterans living in Oregon, almost 1 in 12 Oregonians, nearly 90,000 served in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan or Iraq wars. Unlike most wars in the 20th Century, the wars of today can often be overlooked or ignored by citizens at home. I was surprised to hear recently that less that 4% of the US population serves in the military.

On my coastal route from Portland to Sacramento, every next stop yielded a more beautiful vista. During a coffee stop I discovered a project by David Jay. Veterans reveal what they look like after more than 10 years of war in the Middle East. Some of these images in the link below may be uncomfortable for the viewer. Jay writes, “This project creates an opportunity to open up a dialogue about issues we are not necessarily comfortable with and also issues that we are responsible for.”

Veterans reveal what they look like after more than 10 years of war in 10 breathtaking pictures

The images caused me to reflect on our often limited definitions of health, service, leadership, courage and even attractiveness. Are we more focused on perfectionism, people pleasing, performance and the plastic ?

I’ve noticed, sometimes, in Church circles, a self-righteous service (moral arrogance) can be used as a divisive and manipulative force, as opposed to true service which unifies others. My own experience of war in Ireland and service in different spheres got me thinking; do we consider leaders less attractive, or less of a leader because they’ve had a body part hideously blown off by a bomb in the Middle East ? Also, how do we remember the past without being imprisoned by it ? That last question was stirred just a few days ago when I found myself torn between remembering an atrocity in the past and releasing forgiveness and bitterness towards the perpetrators. The day remembered was July 21, 1972–Bloody Friday. The IRA exploded 20 bombs across Belfast in 80 minutes killing nine people. Learning from the past, recovery, changes in perspective, and healing, is a process.

I read in the Wall Street Journal there is a push today to overhaul the VA which is struggling to serve military vets. According to a few veteran friends the transformation process is taking a long time. My prayer and meditation for the VA is informed by the bible verse below and my hope is that veterans everywhere would truly experience the love, affection and honor they deserve.

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10).


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