For those of us left behind by those who gave their lives in service to the nation, we are forever reminded that whatever we do, we can't do more than they have.
I love America, and I must admit that the sacrifice of the fallen has haunted me at times. Their sacrifice reminds me that I can always do more. As long as we have life and breath, we can never match what they gave.
They left us in myriad ways and wars ... in missions grandly planned and in missions ill-advised ... dying while pressing the attack and dying while in their sleep ... with their heroic deeds forever memorialized and with their actions completely forgotten.
Regardless of their particular circumstances, though, they gave their all. That's what matters today.
Their shattered families were left to repair what they could. Their young wives who swore they would never forget had to forget so that they could get on with life. Their children who used to bound downstairs to see Dad now wonder why a war was more important than them. Their parents buried them, these young people who not long ago graduated from high school with the world by the tail.
What is fair and right about their leaving and our staying? We who have breath can never do enough.
So I have often thought.
But I wonder what the fallen would say, if they could speak. Would they stake a claim as the most heroic among us? Would they wonder if the nation were worthy of their sacrifice? I don't think so.
If we could talk with our fallen comrades and countrymen, I imagine they might explain a side of their sacrifice that we haven't known.
Imagine this voice from beyond the grave, not haunting, but instead encouraging us to go on, with words like this:
I'll remember them today and always.
I understand that you feel like you haven't given what I did. The truth is, you didn't. But your road is not mine, and we each have a way that we must go. It is not for all of us to pay the ultimate sacrifice for the nation.
And what do I think about my leaving this life and your being left behind, you ask? Well, though leaving this life was painful, for sure, it was a privilege and honor to serve my country and friends and to give my life in service to them.
Yes, my sacrfice cost my family and the people in my life dearly. And it did cost me my earthly life. But still, I gained. How? I gained because you know I loved you. You know because I gave you all I had. We can give no more than our lives. But that doesn't make me better than those left behind. Others were willing to do what I did, but they remained here on earth. But I had a special calling, an appointment with destiny.
But you do, too. Yours is to go on, to live your life in the freedom that we were sworn to protect. So, raise up a new generation that will be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to protect this nation and our way of life. Live your life each day in a way that honors God, whatever your specific calling. Remember that I gave my all for you. And I ask this not for my benefit, but for yours. If you remember the sacrifice that I made, then you will be able to summon the courage necessary to make the sacrifices you will need to make in order to protect freedom.
Now, go and live. Throw the ball with your kid. Hug your spouse. Call your friends. Be a good parent. Be a good citizen. Time is fleeting, so live in a way that you will have no regrets when this life is over.
And finally, thank God every day that you have to live as an American.