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June 1, 2004

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my people, vol. 17, issue 6

My People


Health Care, Humanity Challenged By Vegetative State Patients
Religious Freedom: Cornerstone Of Human Rights
Light to the Nations: A Christian Perspective on World News
Prayer For The Families Of America
In Defense of Life: Vote to Give Witness
Just a Few Thoughts
Cicada - Blues
Prison To Praise: Our Skin Within
Pray the News


Health Care, Humanity Challenged By Vegetative State Patients

After meeting in Rome, the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Pontifical Academy for Life issued the following joint statement on the vegetative state, as reported in L'Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English:

"At the end of four days of concentrated study and debate during the International Congress 'Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas' held in Rome from March 17 to 20, 2004, after we heard the contributions of some of the most prominent scholars and researchers in the field who considered the matter from the perspectives of science, anthropology, and ethics, and after the deeply inspiring words of the Holy Father John Paul II to the Congress participants, the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Pontifical Academy for Life present both to the health professionals and to the general public the following statement:

Scientific and ethical problems related to the Vegetative State

"1) Vegetative State (VS) is a state of unresponsiveness, currently defined as a condition marked by: a state of vigilance, some alternation of sleep/wake cycles, absence of signs of awareness of self and surroundings, lack of behavioral responses to stimuli from the environment, maintenance of autonomic and other brain functions.

"2) VS must be clearly distinguished from: encephalic death, coma, 'locked-in' syndrome, minimally conscious state. VS cannot be simply equated with cortical death either, considering that in VS patients islands of cortical tissue which may even be quite large can continue functioning.

"All the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount indicate the way of conversion and of reform of life, but the one referring to those who are merciful is particularly eloquent in this regard. Man attains to the merciful love of God, His mercy, to the extent that he himself is interiorly transformed in the spirit of that love towards his neighbor."

John Paul II,
Dives in Misericordia, 1980

"3) In general, VS patients do not require any technological support in order to maintain their vital functions.

"4) VS patients cannot in any way be considered terminal patients, since their condition can be stable and enduring.

"5) VS diagnosis is still clinical in nature and requires careful and prolonged observation, carried out by specialized and experienced personnel using specific assessment standardized for VS patients in an optimum-controlled environment. Medical literature, in fact, shows diagnostic errors in a substantially high proportion of cases. For this reason, when needed, all available modern technologies should be used to substantiate the diagnosis.

"6) Modern neuroimaging techniques have demonstrated the persistence of cortical activity and response to certain kinds of stimuli, including painful stimuli, in VS patients. Although it is not possible to determine the subjective quality of such perceptions, some elementary discriminatory processes between meaningful and neutral stimuli seem to be nevertheless possible.

"7) No single investigation method available today allows us to predict, in individual cases, who will recover and who will not among VS patients.

"8) Until today, statistical prognostic indexes regarding VS have been obtained from studies quite limited as to number of cases considered and duration of observation. Therefore, the use of misleading terms like 'permanent' referred to VS should be discouraged, by indicating only the cause and duration of VS.

"9) We acknowledge that every human being has the dignity of a human person, without any discrimination based on race, culture, religion, health conditions, or socio-economic conditions. Such a dignity, based on human nature itself, is a permanent and intangible value that cannot depend on specific circumstances of life and cannot be subordinated to anyone's judgment.

"We recognize the search for the best possible quality of life for every human being as an intrinsic duty of medicine and society, but we believe that it cannot and must not be the ultimate criterion used to judge the value of a human being's life.

"We acknowledge that the dignity of every person can also be expressed in the practice of autonomous choices; however, personal autonomy can never justify decisions or actions against one's own life or that of others: in fact, the exercise of freedom is impossible outside of life.

"10) Based on these premises, we feel the duty to state that VS patients are human persons, and as such, they need to be fully respected in their fundamental rights. The first of these rights is the right to life and to the safeguard of health. In particular, VS patients have the right to:

" correct and thorough diagnostic evaluation, in order to avoid possible mistakes and to orient rehabilitation in the best way;

" basic care, including hydration, nutrition, warming, and personal hygiene;

" prevention of possible complications and monitoring for any possible signs of recovery;

" adequate rehabilitative processes, prolonged in time, favoring the recovery and maintenance of all progress achieved;

" be treated as any other patients with reference to general assistance and affective relationships.

"This requires that any decision of abandonment based on a probability judgment be discouraged, considering the insufficiency and unreliability of prognostic criteria available to date. The possible decision of withdrawing nutrition and hydration, necessarily administered to VS patients in an assisted way, is followed inevitably by the patients' death as a direct consequence. Therefore, it has to be considered a genuine act of euthanasia by omission, which is morally unacceptable.

"At the same time, we refuse any form of therapeutic obstinacy in the context of resuscitation, which can be a substantial cause of post-anoxic VS.

"11) To the rights of VS patients corresponds the duty of health workers, institutions, and societies in general to guarantee what is needed for their safeguard, and the allocation of sufficient financial resources and the promotion of scientific research aimed to the understanding of cerebral physiopathology and of the mechanisms on which the plasticity of the central nervous system is based.

"12) Particular attention has to be paid to families having one of their members affected by VS. We are sincerely close to their daily suffering, and we reaffirm their right to obtain help from all health workers and full human, psychological, and financial support, which enables them to overcome isolation and feel part of a network of human solidarity.

"13) In addition, it is necessary for institutions to organize models of assistance, specialized with reference to the care of these patients (awakening centers and specialized rehabilitation centers), sufficiently spread over the territory. Institutions should also promote the training of competent personnel.

"14) VS patients cannot be considered as 'burdens' for society; rather, they should be viewed as a 'challenge' to implement new and more effective models of health care and of social solidarity."


Religious Freedom: Cornerstone Of Human Rights

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations addressed the 60th session of the Commission on Human Rights held in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 1 on the value of religious freedom. He stated:

"The place of religions in society and their desire to participate in public life at the service of the people have been part of recent debates that have been provoked by political events and an increased pluralism in many countries of the world. Religion is an important dimension in the lives of individuals and peoples, and it is natural that it should play an active role in the public arena.

"In fact, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art. 18) promotes religious freedom: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.'

"I find it here opportune to emphasize that the right to religious freedom includes both an individual and an institutional dimension. The respect for the institutional dimension of religious freedom is necessary so as to guarantee full recognition and promotion of the individual aspect of the same right.

Continued violation of religious freedom and the use of violence

"Any follower of any religion has the right, with no prejudice to the security and legitimate authority of the State, to be respected in his/her convictions and practices in the name of religious freedom, which is one of the fundamental aspects of the freedom of conscience and an effective contribution to the common good of society. The international juridical instruments treaties and declarations have constantly affirmed the value and importance of religious freedom and, at the same time, provided protection against discrim-ination for all religious believers so that they may freely profess their faith, according to their conscience, their symbols, and their tradition.

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ save me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Blood of Christ inebriate me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant enemy, defend me, and bid me come to Thee, that I may praise Thee forever and ever. Amen

"Unfortunately, religious freedom continues to be violated in several places, and there is an added dimension today of non-State groups taking upon themselves the initiative to discriminate and even use violence against religious minorities, in many cases with impunity. Places of worship and cemeteries are burnt down or vandalized and desecrated; believers are threatened, attacked, and even killed, and their leaders are made a special target of discrimination. The ability to choose one's religion, including the right to change it, meets with great obstacles in some social contexts in direct violation of the guaranteed freedom of conscience.

Commission on Human Rights and defense of religious freedom

"The role of the Commission on Human Rights remains timely and necessary in the defense of religious freedom.

"Since 1987 a Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief has been calling attention to the unfulfilled provisions of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Such a precious service deserves sincere appreciation and should certainly continue to ensure that human rights norms concerning religious freedom become recognized and practiced by member states.

"After all, 'Religious freedom, an essential requirement of the dignity of every person, is a cornerstone of the structure of human rights and for this reason an irreplaceable factor in the good of individuals and of the whole society. . .an essential element for peaceful human coexistence. . .The civil and social right to religious freedom, inasmuch as it touches the most intimate sphere of the spirit, is a point of reference for the other fundamental rights and in some way becomes a measure of them.' (John Paul II, Message for the 21st World Day of Peace, 'Religious Freedom: Condition for Peace,' December 8, 1987, n. 1).

"This right, therefore, not only should not be violated by anyone, but believers at risk of discrimination and attacks must be protected, have a fair access to justice, and if victimized, they should be compensated.

Positive role of believers in public life

"An emerging subtle form of religious intolerance is opposing the right of religion to speak publicly on issues concerning forms of behavior that are measured against principles of a moral and religious nature. While respecting a healthy sense of the State's secular nature, the positive role of believers in public life should be recognized. This corresponds, among other things, to the demands of a healthy pluralism and contributes to the building up of authentic democracy.

"Religion cannot be relegated to a corner of the private sphere of life and in this way risk losing its social dimension and its charitable action toward vulnerable people it serves without any distinction.

"On the contrary, all religions can make a unique contribution to a peaceful living together by rejecting the violent plans and means of some of their members who cover their destructive goals under the guise of religion and by opening instead the way for interreligious dialogue. In the present circumstances, the way forward for a future of peace is no doubt that of mutual knowledge and understanding, of constructive dialogue and cooperation in the cause of peace.

"To attain this objective, however, the implementation of the right to religious freedom and practice, both for individuals and communities of faith, has to become a universal reality.

"At the same time, in the education process at all levels, respect for these rights needs to be acknowledged and communicated, thereby building a culture of reciprocal respect and of a positive appreciation for diversity in an environment where all human rights can flourish."


Light to the Nations: A Christian Perspective on World News

Vatican City In his message before the Regina Caeli on Sunday, April 18, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope John Paul II said:

". . .Peace is the gift par excellence of the crucified and Risen Christ, the result of the victory of His love over sin and death. In offering Himself as an immaculate victim of expiation on the altar of the Cross, He poured out on humanity the beneficial flow of Divine Mercy.

"Jesus, therefore, is our peace, because He is the perfect manifestation of Divine Mercy. In the human heart, which is an abyss always exposed to the temptation of evil, He infuses God's merciful love.

". . .The Lord is also sending us out to bring to everyone His peace, which is founded on pardon and the forgiveness of sins. This is an extraordinary gift, which He desired to link with the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. How deeply humanity needs to experience the effectiveness of God's mercy in these times marked by growing uncertainty and violent conflicts!

"May Mary, Mother of Christ our Peace, who received His testament of love on Calvary, help us to be witnesses and apostles of His infinite mercy. . ."

(Source: L'Osservatore Romano English edition)


Prayer For The Families Of America

(Editor's note: At the request of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, Pope John Paul II composed the following prayer for the families of America, which was in the conclusion of the apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in America, which resulted from the Synod. The Pope stated: "I invite individuals, communities, and ecclesial groups, wherever two or more gather in the Lord's name, to strengthen through prayer the spiritual bond between all American Catholics. Let everyone join in the prayer of the Successor of Peter, invoking Christ Who is 'the way of conversion, communion, and solidarity in America.'" America refers to the continent of America: North, Central, and South America.)

Pentecost. . . reveals the face of the Church as a family gathered together with Mary, enlivened by the powerful outpouring of the Spirit and ready for the mission of evangelization. The contemplation of this scene, like that of the other glorious mysteries, ought to lead the faithful to an ever greater appreciation of their new life in Christ. . ."

Pope John Paul II,
Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 23

We thank You, Lord Jesus, because the Gospel of the Father's love, with which You came to save the world, has been proclaimed far and wide in America as a gift of the Holy Spirit that fills us with gladness.

We thank You for the gift of Your Life, which You have given us by loving us to the end: Your Life makes us children of God, brothers and sisters to each other. Increase, O Lord, Your faith and our love for You, present in all the tabernacles of the continent.

Grant us to be faithful witnesses to Your Resurrection for the younger generation of Americans, so that, in knowing You, they may follow You and find in You their peace and joy. Only then will they know that they are brothers and sisters of all God's children scattered throughout the world.

You Who, in becoming man, chose to belong to a human family, teach families the virtues which filled with light the family home of Nazareth.

May families always be united, as You and the Father are one, and may they be living witnesses to love, justice, and solidarity; make them schools of respect, forgiveness, and mutual help, so that the world may believe; help them to be the source of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, and all the other forms of firm Christian commitment.

Protect Your Church and the Successor of Peter, to whom You, Good Shepherd, have entrusted the task of feeding Your flock. Grant that the Church in America may flourish and grow richer in the fruits of holiness.

Teach us to love Your Mother, Mary, as You loved her.

Give us strength to proclaim Your Word with courage in the work of the new evangelization, so that the world may know new hope.  Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, pray for us!



Vote To Give Witness

Fred H. Summe
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
by Fred H. Summe

In an article in the Cincinnati Post, titled "Abortion has Kerry, Vatican at odds," the issue is raised whether a priest should deny Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who publicly support the legalization of killing unborn children.

The Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has made his pro-abortion view an important issue in his campaign. "We are going to have a change in leadership in this country to protect the right of choice."

The article then states that Cardinal Francis Arinze said a Catholic politician who supports abortion rights "is not fit" to receive the Eucharist.

In the United States, a considerably large percentage of elected and appointed national and state officials, including one-third of the U.S. Supreme Court, consider themselves Catholic. However, the majority of Catholic politicians favor the legalization of abortion on demand.

For years, with a few exceptions, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have failed to admonish those who have taken positions which contradict the clear moral teachings of the Catholic Church. This has misled other Catholics into thinking that either the moral teachings of the Catholic Church allows for abortion, or that the question of abortion is a matter of little concern.

Bishop Burke

The then Bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, now the Archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Burke issued the following "Notification":

"I hereby call upon Catholic legislators who are members of the faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse, to uphold the natural and divine law regarding the inviolable dignity of all human life. To fail to do so is a grave public sin and gives scandal to all the faithful. Therefore, in accord with the norm of Canon 915, Catholic legislators who are members of the faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse and who continue to support procured abortion or euthanasia may not present themselves to receive Holy Communion.

"My interventions are not attempts to take to myself the responsibility of legislators but to act for their salvation and the salvation of those justly scandalized by their actions."

Other Bishops

The newly appointed Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona, Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, after joining 200 Pro-Lifers in praying outside of a Planned Parenthood abortuary on Christmas Eve, stated:

"I have a special obligation, especially to Catholics in whatever position they occupy in society, to explain the Church teachings and to share the good news about life. That includes politicians."

"If you vote pro-abortion, don't present yourselves for Communion," stated Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans, a week after Bishop Burke's statement.

Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, Bishop Robert Zubik of Green Bay, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee all have expressed their support of the position taken by Bishop Burke.

"We believe the long march to end legalized abortion will end only when every diocese joins Bishop Burke on the path provided by Christ and His Church," expressed Mrs. Judie Brown, President of the American Life League. "Please call your bishop to assure him of your prayers, and humbly ask him if he will issue a decree similar to the one issued by Bishop Burke."

"Candidates who claim to be 'Catholic' but who publicly ignore Catholic teaching about the sanctity of human life are offering a dishonest public witness," points out Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver.

Giving Witness

Christ has called all of us to bear witness to the truth. The truth that has been consistently taught by the Catholic Church for over 2,000 years is that abortion is morally wrong, a sinful act, and that no circumstances ever justify this act or make it any less than what it is, the killing of an unborn child.

One of the simplest ways for Americans to give witness to the truth is by how they vote. Does our vote give witness to the sanctity of all human life, or does it help keep the killing machine in place?

Have we educated ourselves, meeting our individual Christian duty to do so, to know and understand fully the position of those seeking public office on this, the ultimate issue? Do we then vote for what we know is morally right, or do we allow other concerns to help us feel justified in voting for someone who supports abortion on demand?

We must not allow those seeking public office to mislead us by claiming they are Catholic or by claiming that they are pro-life. We must demand that they publicly declare their position to be that all abortions, surgical and chemical, are morally unacceptable.

"Catholics who endorse pro-abortion legislation or who back politicians who do so are being radically inconsistent with their faith," teaches Bishop John J. Meyers.

"Stand Up for Life!" as commanded by Pope John Paul II.


Just A Few Thoughts

Ray Grothaus
Ray Grothaus
by Ray Grothaus

Just a few thoughts on mothers.

There are many obligations in life but none are more important than the ones we accept when we become parents. No duty is more vital than the nurturing of children. Parents must teach honesty, perseverance, self-discipline, and a host of basic skills. Without these skills, it is difficult for society to teach anything. In most families, the lion's share of this instruction falls upon the mother.

Your mom taught you how to talk and walk. She taught you how to eat and drink. She taught you how to say please and thank you. You couldn't exist without these abilities. Mothers must decide when a child is ready for the next step in their lives. The poet Alfred Tennyson speaks of this dilemma in his poem What Does Little Birdie Say.

What does little birdie say in her nest at peep of day? "Let me fly, Mother, Let me fly away." Birdie, rest a little longer till the little wings are stronger. So she rests a little longer then she flies away. What does little baby say in her bed at peep of day? Baby says, like little birdie, "Let me rise and fly away." Baby, sleep a little longer till the little limbs are stronger. If she sleeps a little longer, baby too shall fly away.

Prayer for Fathers

St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus and chaste husband of Mary, you passed  your life in loving fulfillment of duty. You supported the holy family of  Nazareth with the work of your hands. Kindly protect those who trustingly come to you. You know their aspirations, their hardships, their hopes.  They look to you because they know you will understand and protect them.  You too knew trial, labor, and weariness.  But amid the worries of material life, your soul was full of deep peace and sang out in true joy through intimacy with God's Son entrusted to you and with Mary, His tender Mother.  Assure those you protect that they do not labor alone.  Teach them to find Jesus near them and to watch over Him faithfully as you have done.  Pope John XXIII

Mothers make these kinds of decisions every day with young ones. Is their three year old prepared to walk down the steps by themselves? They ponder if their four year old is ready to lose the sippy cup and drink without a lid. Can my eight year old walk to school without my guidance? When will this young child be ready to stay home by herself? Is my fifteen year old ready to date? Fathers may think about these things but mothers are the ones who make the decisions. You are who you are in a big way because of your mom.

I watch my wife read to my daughter and I never cease to be amazed. That little one is engrossed with virtually every word. When mother reads aloud, the past seems as if it's happening right now. You can hear the steps of the people in each story. You can hear a dog's bark. You can feel the wind blow. Faraway lands seem very near and true. You can hear the jungle's sounds and feel the mist of the ocean on your face. These nightly readings will surely lead to a love for books and imagination as she grows up. I see this love for reading in her older sisters and it's all because of their mother. Thank you, Rita, you are incredible.

I have been accused of being old before my time. These accusations are mostly because I have such traditional beliefs. I believe that you should call a spade a spade, not a steel device engineered to move a portion of earth from one spot to another. Right is right and wrong is wrong. You can't be a little bit pregnant. Say please and thank you. Walk on the side of the sidewalk closest to traffic and open doors for ladies. I proudly deny none of it and can thank my mom for instilling these beliefs in me.

We owe so much to our mothers. We owe them for lying awake at night listening for coughing, crying, and floor boards creaking with the sound of little feet. I owe my mom for cooking services. How she dreamed up so many different ways to NOT eat meat on Fridays is beyond me. I owe her for cleaning the clothes of a messy football and baseball player so he would look presentable the next time he took the field.

I owe my mother for drying the tears of childhood when dad was so rough on me. And for ironing out the problems of growing up when things didn't turn out as expected. We owe our moms for medical attention. Pepto-Bismol for an upset stomach and St. Joseph's Aspirin for a fever. For nursing us through the measles and the mumps, broken wrists and broken hearts.

We all owe mom for buying things like new shoes (even though the old ones weren't worn out yet), a ball glove, or a new doll. For putting new clothes on our backs while she wore the same dress three Easters in a row. And did you ever notice how when there was only one piece of her favorite pie left that suddenly mom wasn't so hungry? I owe my mom for these things and so much more.

Mom worked cheap and managed simply by doing without a whole lot of things she needed herself. I owe her for more than I can ever hope to repay. She taught me to sing and dance and laugh. I can only hope that she'll accept my incredibly inadequate, overdue, thank you. I love you, mom. Why don't you call your mom?

Just a few thoughts.


Cicada - Blues

(Sung to the tune of any blues song)

My mama up and left me.
My papa up and left me.
Why don't these cicadas leave me too?
That's why, that's why I got the cicada blues.

Cicadas in my mouth, cicadas in my ears.
Cicadas in my eyes and nose, cicadas in my hair.
Cicadas down my back, cicadas in my shoes.
That's why, that's why I got the cicada blues.

Cicadas are sneaky, they come every 17 years.
Just when you forget about them, they then appear.
That's why, that's why I got the cicada blues.
I went on a picnic the other day.

There were so many cicadas I had to go away.
Cicadas on the hot dogs, the hamburgers, the brats,
Cicadas on the picnic table, I couldn't find a spot.
That's why, that's why I got the cicada blues.

I like cicadas, I eat them morning, noon, and night.
I munch them with my Pepsi, cicadas are out of sight.
That's why, that's why I got the cicada blues.
Cicadas in my coffee, cicadas in my tea.

Cicadas in my mashed potatoes, cicadas all over me.
That's why, that's why I got the cicada blues.
I ordered a sandwich, they called it B.L.C.
When I complained about the tomato, they explained it all to me.

That's why, that's why I got the cicada blues.
In 2004, they'll be back again.
There'll be more of them next time. There's no chance for us to win.
That's why, that's why I got the cicada blues.

The moral of this story is: give your life to God.
Otherwise, cicadas will be the only things you got.
Jesus, Jesus, heal the cicada blues.
There's only one savior and He's talking now to you.

(Editor's note: This article is reprinted from the July, 1987 My People. It was written by the late Father Al Lauer.)


Prison To Praise: Our Skin Within

by Shirley A. Ivy

(Editor's Note: Shirley Ivy writes from Texas. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)

White, red, black, or brown Who are we to look down?
Aren't we all human and of the same worth?
Didn't we all come from the same piece of earth?
Why do we argue about the color of skin?

Doesn't true love come from within?
This is something I can't understand.
We are all children of the great I AM.
Yes, He watches everything that I do, yes I am sure
He is watching you too.
So next time you feel hatred within for something as simple as the color of skin.
Just say to yourself there is beauty within.
Open your mind and close your eyes and find out where true beauty lies.


Pray The News

Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.

  • We pray for all fathers to be strong men of God.
  • We pray that we would love the Sacred Heart of Jesus with all our heart.
  • We pray for all nations to respect the religious freedom of their people.
  • We pray for strong Christians to become involved in politics.
  • We pray that Catholic politicians and voters will be faithful to the teachings of the Church.
  • We pray for a great respect for the dignity of human life, no matter what the state or condition of the person.
  • We pray for the success of the Bible Institute.
  • We pray for our military men and women and their families.