Sunday is Veterans Day. It is also the two-month anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
We find ourselves in the novel position -- novel for Americans at least -- of fighting a war in which the front and the home front are one and the same.
And so, I suggest to you, we broaden our definition of Veterans Day, for just this one year. Include in our memorial of soldiers who fought in the cause of freedom, those civilians, firefighters, police officers, and postal workers who lost their lives because they believed in freedom.
Sally Murphy Pallante is an American as ordinary as the next guy. Her father is a World War II Navy veteran and a retired firefighter. Her father's two identities are not so incredible as Americans go, but this year, they put a lump in her throat.
Pallante wanted to do something about it. As president of The Gathering of the Irish Clans (a loosely tied group of eight Irish clans who each year organize the Irish Festival), she brought a gem of an idea to her clansmen and women: Let's commemorate the service of veterans AND offer prayers for the Sept. 11 victims.
What's planned: St. Columba Cathedral will be host to a community memorial Mass, open to all, Sunday at 1:45 p.m. "It is our sincere hope that our community will participate in this deep expression of respect and support for our veterans, the military, the police and fire departments and the attack victims and their families," Pallante wrote in a letter of invitation for the service.
If the clan's invitations are accepted, it should prove to be quite the commemoration. "I've sent 3,000 letters, to the VFW halls, the Veterans Administration and individuals inviting them to come," she said. "But anyone who wants to honor our nation's heroes is welcome."
Already committed to participate are the color guards from Youngstown Fire, Police and Mahoning County Sheriff departments. Pallante also hopes to have color guards from various branches of the armed services. Police Chief Richard Lewis, Fire Chief John O'Neill Jr. and Sheriff Randall Wellington all have committed to participate in the Mass.
Who will participate: The memorial will begin with the Cardinal Mooney Chorus singing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Let There Be Peace on Earth." Then, organist Daniel Laginya and Susan Sexton on trumpet will provide music, while cantor Colleen Harris leads the congregation in singing "spiritual and patriotic music," Pallante said.
The plaintiff whine of bagpipes will follow as a lone piper enters along the church's center aisle, playing "Going Home." Behind him, the flag-bearing color guards will advance. After the flags are placed and a short break, the Mass will begin.
Concelebrants for the Mass will be Monsignor Robert Siffrin, chaplain of the city police department, and the Rev. Michael Swierz, city fire department chaplain.
Readings for the service will be done "by lay people -- one representing the firefighters, the police and veterans," Pallante said. Korean War veteran Richard Koker will sign the Mass for the hearing impaired.
All money from the collection baskets will go to the victims of the terrorist attacks. According to Pallante, the money will be given to Catholic Charities Disaster Relief Fund, which will distribute it to centers in Washington, D.C., and New York City to assist victims' families with bereavement support, long-term counseling, day-care expenses and other support.
"People can know that if they write a check, it is going to go where it is supposed to go," she said. "Every penny of it."
In fact, any expenses from the service -- postage, for example -- will be borne by the organizers, not taken from the collection plate, Pallante said.