Thought for the Weekby Pastor David Alexander
Each year on the 11th of November we observe a day set aside to honor and express appreciation to all military veterans who have served our nation. Originally known as Armistice Day, which marked the signing of the Versailles Treaty at the 11th hour of the 11th day of November 1918 bringing an end to World War I. November 11th was declared a federal holiday in 1938 as a day, “dedicated to the cause of world peace.”
In 1954, the holiday was officially changed to Veterans Day in order to honor all military veterans.
In 2014 our production team captured the stories of several military veterans in our church family including Tom Patterson. You can hear the entirety of Tom’s story today by visiting this link.
Tom served for seven years in the United States Army and did two tours in Vietnam.
Tom was not drafted to serve. He volunteered.
While he was stateside he also served as one of the representatives who officially notified families whose loved one had been killed in action.
One of his children wrote that Tom did not do this because he liked to do it but, “because he had been through what their son had been through and thought it might bring families just a little comfort knowing that he had been there too.”
In his reflection, Tom said that following the war,
“I gave up on God. In fact, I sat down and told God that I didn’t want to have anything to do with him, but he didn’t listen.”
He went on to talk about his journey home to faith, which he described as moving beyond the knowledge of God’s forgiveness to learning how to forgive himself.
After an extended battle with COVID-19, Tom passed away last Friday.
I was one of many who loved Tom and was heartbroken to hear of his loss. Tom faithfully participated in all areas of our church. I am not sure anyone knows how many mission trips that Tom was a part of during his time here at First Methodist. He was a consistent presence in worship as well as our midweek Pastor’s Bible Study.
Tom would often hang around after Pastor's Bible Study to visit with me and on numerous occasions, Tom shared how the people of this church changed his life. He never missed the chance to express his gratitude for that, and when I visited with his wife Dianne earlier this week she also spoke about how coming to First Methodist had enabled Tom to find faith again.
In Tom’s words, “I gave up on God… but he didn’t listen.”
It was here that he learned that while he had given up on God, God had never given up on him.
Dianne also told me about the nurse who sat by her side during Tom’s final hours. She said that after Tom passed this nurse asked if it would be okay for the hospital staff to honor Tom's service to our nation. Dianne shared how deeply touched she was as doctors and nurses as well as the Hospital Administrator lined up outside Tom’s room, the chaplain read a passage from the fifth chapter of second Corinthians, and they presented her with a folded American flag.
Today, Tom’s family and friends will gather to celebrate his life and give God thanks for Tom’s life. Alongside them, we grieve his loss. Tom was a special man, a deeply committed follower of Christ, and a brother in faith who with his kind voice and a heart softened by God’s grace brought incredible joy to the lives of so many.
So while yesterday was Veterans Day, so is today. It was also marked in a special way last Friday in the hallway outside Tom’s hospital room.
We carry the gratitude of yesterday into today and into each day that is to come.
Having the unique honor of sharing life with a man like Tom Patterson is one more reminder that every day is Veterans Day.