Many of us probably spent Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend with friends over a BBQ lunch. That is exactly what I did yesterday, but it was especially exciting. At 10 am on Sunday I was on my way to Building 52 of the Jefferson Barracks VA hospital to meet with friends that make up the heart and muscles of MCS.
MCS stands for the ambitious name Muslim Community of St. Louis. For the second year in a row, that group held gratitude Memorial Day weekend lunch for our veterans who were spending the festive weekend away from home, and in extended care and rehabilitation facilities of the VA hospital.
During the early organizational meetings, two main objectives emerged: involvement of whole families, and having youth participation in focus. From what I have seen over the past year, they have consistently achieved their goals. This group has funded and organized 5 very successful events over the last 12 months in diverse venues ranging from VA extended care facilities to homeless shelters and even a welcome dinner for new refugees registered with ARIS (African Refugee, Immigration Services).
To me, MCS is very distinguished from other local social service Muslim groups I know of. Their great achievement, in my mind, lies in their ability to motivate the youth that consistently formed half or more of the 40-50 volunteers in each event.
Yesterday, 42 volunteers from 18 families were involved. Twenty two young Muslims - as young as 9 years old - actively took part in preparing and serving food, setting tables, wheeling some veterans in and out of the wards, and even delivering some meals - with the help of the VA staff - indoors to some patients that could not come outside to the BBQ area.
Thank God the weather looked kindly upon us. Just few minutes after the guests finished their lunch and moved inside, rain started pouring. We then sat together for a quick meal, followed by cleaning up. The Muslim volunteers, old and young, served over 200 barbecued chicken and burger lunches to the veterans and chatted with many of them.
Above all, we delivered a clear message: we appreciate veterans, and thank them for their sacrifice and contribution to the making of the great society we live in.
Politicians start wars, but veterans bear the burden, and most of them pay dearly. What one thinks about a particular war does not matter. This is the day to say thank you to those who paid the most.