A JUST AND LASTING PEACE
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, 2and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 3He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; 4but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
(Micah 4:1-4, NRSV)
99 years—that’s how long Winfield Rowland’s remains were left unclaimed here on Long Island. He fought in 1898 in the Spanish-American War, but somehow his ashes, along with the ashes of 56 other Long Island veterans, went unclaimed or abandoned in area funeral homes for decades. All of these veterans were given a military funeral and interred at Pinelawn National Cemetery on Armed Forces Day in 2012. Newsday reported that, “The remains of each service member were brought to the cemetery in a golden urn, which pallbearers placed on a table in the shadow of a massive American flag. As each urn was laid out, the fallen service member’s name and branch were read aloud, and a small bell was rung. A pipe band played ‘Taps’ and a color guard marched during the solemn morning service, which brought some attendees to tears.”
Among those “…interred was Samuel C. Anderson, a Navy veteran who fought in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War…Organizers said the funeral was the largest ever of its kind in the United States—and part of [an]…initiative aimed at identifying all the unclaimed and abandoned remains of service members.” The Missing In America: Veteran Recovery Program is a not for profit launched in 2007. Their mission statement reads, “The purpose of the MIA Project is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations. To provide honor and respect to those who have served this country by securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes.” The scope of their work is mind boggling. Over 2,200 funeral homes have been visited with the ashes of some 13,800 military personnel recovered. The work of the Missing in America Program is very important. Not only do they want to identify and inter veterans whose remains were neglected, but they want to make sure that the same thing does not happen in the future.
Why is their work so vital? Because we as a nation must never forget. We must never forget those who fought and died in the service of our country. And we must never forget those veterans who risked life and limb in defense of our country. After all, that is the whole point of Memorial Day.
Memorials of various shapes and sizes exist to help us remember. The Gold Star Monument in Mary Jane Davies Park on Plandome Road says remember, remember those from Manhasset who died defending our nation. The names on the monument go back as far as the Civil War and are as recent as Operation Iraqi Freedom. I remember on Memorial Day back in 2012 the names of Lieutenant Commander Harry S. Mossman and Captain Edward F. Miles were added to the Gold Star Monument.
Who were these men that the monument urges us to remember? According to the (May 24, 2012) Manhasset Press, “[In 1965] Harry Mossman…[graduated] from Bates College in Lewiston, ME., earning a degree in English. It is no surprise that Harry would excel in college as he was a standout at Manhasset High School both in academics and athletics. A quiet, steady guy with a good sense of humor, Harry took advanced math classes, studied Latin for four years and was the recipient of the Latin Award his senior year at Manhasset…Harry played baseball and football for Manhasset and would go on to run track and play football at Bates where he earned the nickname ‘Harry the Horse’ because of his determination on the field…Harry met his wife Rocky at Bates College and by 1970 [he] was in the United States Navy training new recruits…Harry would later write, ‘I have made government service in the Navy my career. I hope I can help the people of this nation in some small way by trying to make the part of the armed forces in which I serve use its vast power as wisely as possible in the preservation of this nation.’”
On the night of August 20, 1972 Harry Mossman’s plane took off from the USS Kitty Hawk never to return. His plane went down over North Vietnam caused by either anti-aircraft artillery or severe thunderstorms. In January 2004, Harry Mossman’s remains were repatriated to the U.S. He was buried with full military honors on August 30, 2004 in Washington State at Tahoma National Cemetery.
The other serviceman whose name was added to the Plandome Rd. monument was Ed Miles, a 1962 graduate from Manhasset High School. Drafted in 1965, Miles was a U.S. Army Special Forces military advisor when he stepped on a landmine in 1969 near the Cambodian border. He [experienced life-threatening injuries]…as a result of the explosion.
According to the Manhasset Press, “Ed finally made it home and, despite the severity of his injuries and years of painful treatment, joined the anti-war movement, becoming an activist and co-founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. After receiving a Masters of Public Administration from NYU, Ed worked as an outreach counselor for Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, Ed is probably best known for his work with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. As an associate director of VVAF, Ed traveled the world helping war survivors, securing funds for much needed medical research and support. His efforts resulted in the building and staffing of a prosthetics clinic for amputees…[in] Cambodia in 1991…As a result of Ed’s efforts, the VVAF has opened rehabilitation clinics in Vietnam, Angola, Ethiopia, and Kosovo, as well as Central America and sub-Saharan Africa, allowing thousands of people worldwide to regain their mobility and dignity. Throughout his life, Ed continuously promoted peace and reconciliation…He tirelessly lobbied the U.S. Congress and the White House to normalize diplomatic and trade relations with Vietnam and was one of the first Americans to return there, being featured on Nightline in 1989, visiting the site where he was wounded…[Ed died in 2004.] On July 14, 2004, Sen. Patrick Leahy memorialized Ed before the U.S. Senate describing him as ‘….soft-spoken and unassuming to a degree rarely seen…’ but having a ‘…fiery passion for ridding the world of injustice and senseless conflict,’ further recognizing his gentle kindness, generous heart and calling him a true humanitarian and hero. A few years following Ed’s passing, the U.S. Surgeon General determined that Ed died as a result of the wounds he sustained in [Vietnam. His name was added to the] Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington on…May 4, 2010.”
So the next time you’re on Plandome Road, stop by Mary Jane Davies Park and read the names of those courageous Manhasset residents who died serving our country. When we read the name Ed Miles, let us remember his work to make peace that other young Americans might avoid death or injury defending our country. In the final analysis, perhaps all the war monuments and memorials around this nation should remind us not only of those who courageously served our country, but also remind us of the horror that is war. Lest we forget and send our men and women in uniform to risk their lives in a war not worthy of this nation. Lest we forget that the cost of war is measured in more than mere dollars, but more importantly in the dead and broken bodies of our service people and the innocent civilians killed and maimed as a result. Lest us never forget all of those veterans who endured the ravages of war and lost their comrades as a result. Let us never forget that we owe them all a debt of gratitude. Lest we forget that Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Yesterday here in our sanctuary we held a funeral for Don Nardone, husband of the late Maryalice Nardone. Like most men of his generation, Don was a soldier during WWII. He was stationed in the Pacific and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. An American flag draped his coffin during the service. Afterwards we drove to Pinelawn Cemetery to inter his body. Since Don was a veteran, a color guard met us at his gravesite. After the trumpeter played a clear and beautiful rendition of “Taps”, the color guard removed the flag from Don’s coffin. Folding it with expert precision, the soldiers presented the flag to the family saying, “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.” I especially like the part about a grateful nation as it reminds us that veterans are not just local heroes in the towns where they lived. They are in fact national heroes because their actions and sacrifice kept safe our nation as a whole.
So when we meet veterans, may we greet them with the words, “Thank you for your service.” In leaving their company, may we pray for the day when swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, the day the lion shall lie down with the lamb and neither shall be afraid, the day when we “…finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for [those]…who…have borne the battle…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.” If not in this world, then surely in the life to come. AMEN.
Written by Rev. Jimmy Only
May 28, 2017
The Congregational Church of Manhasset, New York (UCC)
Most Merciful God, In whom we live, love, and have our being,
We take time today to uplift the heavy hearts
Of those for whom Memorial Day
Is more than a mere diversion,
But is, instead, a painful time of reflection, lamentation
And enduring bereavement.
This day we remember with compassion
Your sons and daughters who have lost their lives in war.
Help us to honor their memory
With a sincere pledge to never forget their sacrifice while at the same time seeking peace and nonviolent solutions to world conflict that the lives of our military and innocent civilians might be spared.
We pray for the safety of those entering military service,
And weep for the many returning from combat
With wounded bodies,
Sickened by the sight and sounds of war.
Our prayers also extend, O God,
To those who still wait and pray
Day by anxious day
For that precious moment of reunion
With a beloved family member, friend, or loved one.
And to others – whose reunion has been sorrowfully delayed
Until that Heavenly homecoming with Christ
In the fullness of time –
We offer the gentle assurance
Of your promise to all believers,
“ Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
This prayer by Tracy McNeal was adapted from http://gbgm-umc.org/ global_news/full_article.cfm?articleid=2495
 Kevin Deutsch, “Vets’ Unclaimed Remains Get Final Honors,” Newsday, May 19, 2012