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Local view: Churches should respect families' requests for funeral military honors

Once again, a Lutheran church within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has refused to allow military honors at a family's request for a deceased veteran. I last wrote about this issue for the News Tribune on April 29; my commentary then was titled, "Honor Guard works with churches on ceremonies."

Most churches that refuse to allow military honors with funerals do allow them at the cemetery because that's the "traditional" way of doing military honors.

However, this ELCA church recognizes "non-traditional" marriages and has other "non-traditional" agendas demanding of tolerance and respect. Where is the respect or tolerance for the very men and women who protect everyone's rights to believe and worship as they wish? Does not the church have a responsibility to take care of all families, especially at that most critical juncture of their lives when they lose a loved one?

It is true that all honor guards are state entities. However, we only come to a funeral at the request of a family which has lost a veteran. We do not impose ourselves on anyone, especially a church. We are not infringing on any of the church's religious doctrines or usurping from Christ in any way whatsoever.

Personally, I serve my God, my community and my fellow man -- and in that order. It is not my place to judge; that is best left to God.

I am extraordinarily tolerant of every individual's right to do or believe as he or she wishes. That's what I and every veteran fought for. We must be mindful and respectful of each other's opinions but at the same time be "salt and light" to our fellow man. Ultimately, we need to take care of the families first and foremost and keep all bias and politics out of military funerals.

The only reasonable conclusion I can come up with concerning this church's view on military honors is that the church must have other agendas such as being anti-war, anti-gun or so on. As a combat veteran, I can assure anyone that all soldiers and veterans hate war. It truly is the worst of humanity. So we are not warmongers. Guns are tools and, like anything, can be misused by people. But that does not make them bad.

I see parallels in this current situation with the way our Vietnam veterans were treated when they came back. Our country ostracized its Vietnam veterans because of the war and because of the actions of our politicians. The country took out its frustrations on the wrong people.

This church can hate war or people who abuse weapons but it shouldn't take that out on an organization like the Honor Guard, which is only trying to serve the families of fallen veterans with dignity, honor and respect.

The German, anti-Nazi, Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, "The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all of our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity or social justice is quite bewildering brought up in our traditional concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil."

John Marshall is captain of the Duluth Honor Guard.