Veterans from all branches received recognition from children decked out in red, white and blue and their crisp uniforms during a special mass in honor of Mid-South veterans at Sacred Heart School in Southaven.

"We protect our country — we protect other people and the world," Father Greg Schill, himself a U.S. Marine, now retired, told school children huddled around his feet on the school's gym floor.

Fr. Greg is a member of the Sacred Heart Southern Missions pastoral team that serves the Mississippi parishes of Christ the King in Southaven, Queen of Peace in Olive Branch, Holy Spirit in Hernando, Good Shepherd in Robinsonville, and St. Gregory in Senatobia.

Schill recounted the special anniversary of Veterans Day this year and every year as being "on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month," the date that the Armistice was signed ending World War I, on Nov. 11, 1918, a day which was proclaimed to end the "Great War" and all wars, and designed to honor all veterans fighting to preserve liberty and freedom.

"It's been 99 years since that has happened," Schill noted.

Schill made the point that defending the faith often means might and bloodshed but mercy, peace, justice and salvation is the ultimate goal.

"Remember justice," intoned Schill, who added quickly, "Do not plot evil against each other."

Schill provided a blessing for all of the veterans gathered for the special mass.

One by one they came forward to receive holy communion and later stood as a group to receive the blessing.

Each veteran stood at attention as the anthem of each branch of military service was sung by the school's choir.

Schill's homily was one of peace, not war, but vigilance to defend those whose liberties were threatened, especially the poor, widows and the oppressed.

There was a reading from the Book of Zechariah, imploring those in attendance to "show mercy and compassion" and "defend the afflicted among the people."

The full message from Zechariah warned against mistreating others in the name of might.

"Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other. But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears."

Schill reminded the group of Catholic schoolchildren that Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is the same day as the canonized Roman Catholic St. Martin of Tours.

A conscientious objector who later became a noted soldier to defend the faith, the patron saint of South Africa shares his "Feast Day" with the Veterans Day observance.

The morning mass and Veterans Day observance was one of colorful pageantry and ceremony.

The Knights of Columbus, who comprise and represent the Fourth Regiment, Knights of Columbus with members in Olive Branch, Horn Lake and Southaven, marched into the school gymnasium wearing their colorful regalia and stood at attention.

Wednesday's ceremony has become a tradition at Sacred Heart which has a tradition in the Mid-South which dates back more than seven decades.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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