Thursday, March 1, 2012

Loving Life and the Fear of Death

I not only admit but proudly proclaim I was among those looney few that waited anxiously for the release of the movie "Act of Valor".

There were several reasons for my excitement.

It was a movie written, produced, and starring mostly military personnel. It put a spotlight on the Navy's Sea Air Land (SEAL) elite special operations warriors. I had the privilege of working with some of them in Iraq. Despite being Navy, I found them good people and solid professionals. All inter-military jibes aside, I do have the utmost respect for them. As with all of the special operational units among our branches of the military, they are a special breed of patriot. The do a hard job every day.

Given that the movie was made with mostly military personnel, I was anticipating a certain level of realism, without breaching OPSEC, INFOSEC, PERSEC, etc. Over the years, I have found myself mostly mocking "war" and "combat" movies coming out of Hollywood. I needed a breath of fresh air not polluted with politically slanted crap.

I was not disappointed. I urge every American to see this movie, regardless of your political affiliation. It is not a bit of propaganda. It is not a 2-hour long recruitment film. It is a work of fiction steeped in the reality of the world we live in. Things in the movie do happen every day. Real men and women (yes, the intelligence analyst in the movie is a female Sailor) stand as our mostly silent, unsung heroes.

In that movie, the Navy LT (an O-3, equivalent to an Army or Marine CPT) deploys not long after find out his wife is pregnant with their first child. That struck a nerve with me. A close friend of mine deployed under similar circumstances, to the initial invasion into Iraq in 2003. CPT Chris Seifert was killed by a traitor before he could cross the border between Kuwait and Iraq.

The Navy SEAL LT did something that many military members do. He passed a letter, to his buddy, for his unborn child, in case he didn't survive the mission. The letter contained a poem by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh. The words are those of a warrior:

Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about his religion.
Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting
or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks,
the fault lies in yourself.
Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.
When your time comes to die,
be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death,
so that when their time comes they weep and pray
for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.


It doesn't matter if you are a war-fighter among the elite in the military or you are a peaceful warrior guarding your life, property, and family; these are great words to live by.

If you exist, fearing death every moment of your life, you can not learn to truly live. You put high fences around yourself and deny yourself the joys of living.

Each person has their own individual religion. Yes, people choose to believe the dogma and teachings of a certain sect or church. However, each person has individual beliefs that may not perfectly fit with the group to which they claim membership. Their own experiences have formulated those beliefs. Respect those beliefs. Do NOT let somebody else show disrespect of yours. Make it mutual respect.

Love your life, your family, your property, your accomplishments. You earned your accomplishments and property. You owe loyalty to yourself and your family second only to your deity, who blessed you with them. G-d, whatever name(s) you call Him by, created life for the reason of living. Take joy in it. Experience it. Do so without regret.

Live your life with honor. Seek to better yourself, your family, and the world you live in. Strive to do at least one thing better each day, and to learn one new thing each day.

Be friendly to strangers and newcomers. In doing so you create friends, build allies, or at least do not create unnecessary enemies. We have enough enemies in life. There are enough people set on doing harm or evil. Do not incite others to join a fight against you. 

Give thanks for what you have, what you experience, what you learn. It makes the food taste better, the air smell sweeter, and the sun feel warmer on your skin.

Bend your knee to no one. You can show respect, be it loaned or earned, without becoming a servant or slave. G-d endowed us with inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. Let nobody take those from you. Give them no chance to do so. You have the right and obligation to fight for them, and for those of your neighbor. It is right and honorable to do so.

Enjoy what life has to offer but do so not in excess. Too much of a good thing dulls the joys it brings and turns it decadent. Too much of things that dull your senses, slow your mind, or alter your perceptions from the world you live in distract you from the joys and beauty of the real world we live in. They steal your life.

By taking the path and journey of life embracing each step and experiencing it, you write your own life's story. You write your own "death song". Unlike those who live life in fear, self-imposed slavery, dependent upon the charity and "entitlements" granted by another; you own your own life. They gave theirs away. In their final days, they cry for more time, because they wasted what G-d gave them. Pray for them.

However, at the end of your days, no matter the number they aggregate, you have lived your life full. Most importantly, in writing your own life's story, your own "death song", you have truly LIVED.

In closing, I ask you to thank every member of our armed forces, past, present, and future, for living their life to its fullest in a way that allows you the opportunity to do the same.

Semper Fi
De Oppresso Liber
Ready to Lead, Ready to Follow, Never Quit
That Others may Live
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

"Let these warriors know peace for they have seen enough of war"

"On a grave stone their are two dates. The numbers matter not. What matters is that little '-' between them."