We all get one life.
Just one. That's all. Some of us have more cars than others. Some of us have more dollars in the bank than others. In most facets of our lives, in fact, there are huge inequalities. But nothing can change or alter the fact that when it comes to our lives, we each get just one.
There are huge differences, of course, in how we choose to live the one life that we are given - and that life is a gift. None of us did anything in a pre-conceptive state that warranted our existence. Some people fill their allotted days with vigor and meaning. Others simply exist. Most of us fall somewhere in between. Nothing we do, however, from the most noble and energetic among us, to the laziest and most ignoble, changes the fact that the life we are living is the only one we will have on this celestial orb.
Which brings me to the point of today's reflection. Since we only have one life, it stands to reason that we should spend it wisely. Approximately 1.02 million Americans, since April 18, 1775, have spent their one life in the service of their country in time of war.
Think about that. All of these people, like you and like me, had but one life and either by choice or by circumstance, each one of these people sacrificed that life upon the altar of freedom. They died, each and every one of them, for an ideal that has yet to be reached, but one for which I hope we will continue to strive. They died for justice and equality for all. They died for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They died to make the world safe for democracy. They died to stop a madman from taking over the world. They died to preserve the American way of life. They died to keep the United States of America united. They died to secure the blessing of liberty for their generation - and for posterity.
Some were volunteers who stepped forward gallantly. Some were conscripted soldiers who were ordered into battle. Some received a letter in the mail bearing greetings from the President of the United States. Some were cerebral men who understood the deep and complex issues for which they were asked to fight. Others were completely apolitical and knew nothing about the conflict in which they were engaged except the fact that they were asked to go on the behalf of their nation.
Some drew their last breath of air within yards of their homes or in parts of this great land that was strange and unfamiliar to them. Most breathed their last breath on foreign soil, in countries they couldn't have located on a map a year before they were sent there to fight.
Some of our soldiers saw the person who killed them, face to face. Others never saw death coming. Some died instantaneously while others suffered excruciating pain. All had but one life to give and collectively the 1.02 million soldiers who have given that one life have purchased for us the nation that we have today.
If we could talk to those soldiers from beyond the grave - if they could see what we have done with the nation they bequeathed us - I wonder if they would feel like their sacrifice was worth it.
I wonder how the minutemen who fell at Lexington and Concord, spurred to revolt, in great part, by unfair British taxes, would feel about a country that demands up to 50 percent of the earnings of many of her citizens in various taxes. I wonder if the soldiers who have fallen on the farmlands of Europe and on mosquito-infested islands in the Pacific would approve of the direction our nation has taken in the 65 years since they last saw the light of day. I wonder how the soldiers who fell at Gettysburg and Antietam - soldiers who gave their last full measure of devotion in an effort to keep this nation united - would feel about the political acrimony and disharmony of the 21st century. I wonder how the soldiers who died at the hands of unseen enemies in the rice paddies of Vietnam - sent there to stop the spread of communism in Southeast Asia - would feel about the government's attempt to place so much control over so many facets of everyday life into the hands of the government.
And I wonder how the men and women who have died fighting global terror since Sept. 11, 2001, would feel about the position the current administration is taking concerning our response to the war that was thrust upon us, on our own shore.
I hope and pray that each and every soldier would still feel that their one life was not given in vain. I hope and pray that they would, but I still wonder.
Memorial Day. Please remember the fallen. Please pause to offer a word of thanks for their contribution on your behalf. And please, please, please - please make sure we preserve the principles for which they gave the only life they had. Take care of their country. Take care of our country.
Like those soldiers' lives, it's the only one we have.