To paraphrase Martin Luther King, if someone hasn’t discovered something he is willing to die for, he isn’t fit to live. I’ve always found that ever so slightly harsh, coming from the good Reverend, but I certainly see his point. Being willing to die for something, or even for someone without a doubt represents that ultimate sacrifice in most cases. It is, at least on Earth, the last thing someone can give.
“Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. Not the exact same sentiment as Dr. King’s, but it overlaps.
For what, if anything, would I sacrifice my life? Dr. King may not have respected me much for saying so, but I’m willing to say that I don’t know.
Now, I could mention all of the things for which I think I’d be willing to die in order to protect. I could even go so far as to say I am almost sure I would. But when it comes to willfully dying, I’d be lying if I told you I am 100% sure I could do it when the moment came. We are talking about eternity here. It would be hubris to guarantee I would die to protect something before I found myself in that situation, as much as I’d like to believe that I could do it when the time came.
I am not in the military. While not everyone in the military lives every day with the possibility of being killed, the many who do have entered into that possibility voluntarily. They don’t get to choose when and where they are sent of course, but in this country we do get to choose whether or not we take part in a military service that could one day cost us our lives. That cost has been paid by thousands in the last ten years alone.
It isn’t about not being afraid to die, I dare say. We taint those we honor on this day if we let ourselves assume none of the dead were ever afraid. Human nature suggests that many if not most of them probably were at some point.
But bravery, remember, is not the absence of fear. It is the act of prioritizing something over the fear, and proceeding with it in spite of being afraid. Sometimes even to the point of death itself. That’s the bravery of the Service People. And it is a bravery that applies even when they know that their individual death may not change anything, but that the willingness of thousands like them to do the same thing is what preserves, protects, and defends the Constitution of the United States.
Today is about those who proved it to the furthest possible extent. And forever.