Veterans Day… Italian style!


So I have to admit that I am kind of confused about the festivals and holidays for Italian saints.  There are so many of them, and I can’t keep them straight!  Today, for instance, is the festival of Saint Martin, who is the patron saint of new wine and also the patron saint of the Italian army.  And this is one of four saint-related holidays this month alone!

Anyway, we’ve been enjoying a lot of things related to San Martino’s sainthood lately.  Yesterday we went out to lunch at an agriturismo (restaurant on an organic vineyard and olive grove) and drank deeply of their wonderful new wine.

Today Elliott was asked by his base commander to represent the U.S. military at a mass in honor of San Martino.  It was held in a chapel next to the huge Cathedral of Saint Agatha in downtown Catania, and there were several hundred members of the Italian army in attendance.   The archbishop of Catania led the mass!


The kids and I stood in the back for about half of the ceremony.  We did our best to stay quiet for the entire thing, and we did okay… until it became absolutely necessary for us to leave.  My children had reached the limits of their endurance.  Sadly, just as we were leaving, the little nun (who is on her knees in the photo above) came up to me and lashed out in rapid Italian, chastising me firmly because my bambini needed to be in absolute silence for the mass.  I stuttered and blushed, forgot all my Italian, and finally just turned and ran!

Anyway, the day improved after that low point.  After the ceremony we took pictures with some of the veterans, and one of the military gentlemen put his incredible feathered hat on my head.  Can you believe that thing?!  I can’t imagine taking myself very seriously if this was part of my uniform!


Elliott also got a photo with the commander of the Italian army in Sicily (!), and we got a family photo in front of the Cathedral of Saint Agatha in the main piazza of Catania.  Doesn’t Elliott look handsome in his dress blues?


I remember the slightly panicked feeling I got when I first heard that Elliott — then a dashing young veterinary student that I was developing an enormous crush on — told me he was in the U.S. Army.  I already liked this guy… so if I married him, what would it mean for our lives?  I couldn’t imagine being a military wife.  It seemed so foreign, a totally different way to live my life: all macho and Army and going all over the world to live on military bases.

But as the years have passed, and as Elliott and I have faced the challenges of being a military family together, I can only say that I love this life.  We have made serious sacrifices for the U.S. Army, such as living apart for 12 months of the first 15 months of our marriage.  We have also reaped enormous rewards, like living in Italy for three years and enjoying wonderful healthcare benefits. No matter what the future holds, I will always be grateful that Elliott chose to begin his career in a place where honor and service come first.

I know it isn’t always easy for Elliott to get up each day and go to work.  I know sometimes the honor and greater good of his work get lost in the monotony or the politics.  But he does it, and he does it faithfully and uncomplainingly, skillfully and thoughtfully, compassionately and diligently.  I know the Army doesn’t even know how lucky they are to have him!  I am so thankful and so proud of him today.  Happy Veterans Day, my veteran!

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6 Responses to Veterans Day… Italian style!

  1. Sarah Stuntz November 11, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Very sweet post! I remember those early days, too, and it’s so fun to hear your reflections now. I am so thankful for your both and for your service. Celebrating you today. xoxo

  2. Sarah Stuntz November 11, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    P.S. And shame on that nun! I think that Jesus was glad your children were there (and I seem to remember a story where he chastised some other folks who tried to chase children away…) Hope you have recovered from that less-than-fun experience!

  3. Becca November 11, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Thanks for your understanding AND your celebration, Sarah! I’m so grateful that you were there for those early days. Love you so much. :-)

  4. Pai November 11, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    Great post! We love Elliott and we are so proud of him for doing his work faithfully for God and also for country. Love the pics. Agree with your former roomie…the nun needs to chill. Love the feather hat pic. You should have tried to keep it as a souvenir. If the guy said no you could have given it to Lena and said “Run, Lena, run!” Well, maybe not. Still, would have been a great story… Thanks for this wonderful commemoration of Veteran’s Day.

  5. Anne November 12, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    I’ll echo what others have said, I’m so sorry that nun treated you so rudely. Shame on her. Jesus wants your beautiful children in church, EVEN when they are being loud! They are just being exactly what He created them to be…KIDS!! Jesus made his Church for EVERYONE…kids, old, young, lame, blind…not just the quiet and well-behaved. “Let the children come to me. Do not hinder them, for it is to such that belongs the kingdom of God”.

    And what a beautiful chapel!!! Whenever I see a church like this, my thoughts can’t help but soar to heaven. And such a stark contrast to some of the Catholic churches here in the U.S. (i.e. really plain and boring).

    And, yes, there are A LOT of saints in the Catholic Church! Thousands! Sometimes many different feasts in one day, every day. So you could pretty much party it up every single day, if you wanted. St. Martin is a wonderful saint. He was forced into the Roman army against his will and one day, during the winter, saw a beggar on the road with no clothes. St. Martin divided his cloak in half and gave one half to the beggar. Later that night he had a vision of Christ as the beggar with the other half of his cloak. (“Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do to Me.”) This convinced him to be baptized and leave the army. He later founded the first monastery in France, converted many, many people to Christ and is known as the Apostle of Gaul. So with feasts, the Church isn’t saying that this person is a god, but acknowledging and celebrating his or her holy life and deeds and saying that this is a good person to emulate and ask for their prayers.

    • Becca :: Making Room in Sicily November 12, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and all this information, Anne! I heard a bit of that story about St. Martin, especially after translating a prayer card that was given to us at the cathedral. Such a beautiful story of his sacrifice. A great reminder to all of us!

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