Some memories stay with us forever. I used to live in New Jersey. There wasn’t much self-sacrifice at our school. Then one day in junior high we had a guest speaker. The entire school was herded into the auditorium to hear him talk. There was much chatter and mayhem as we fumbled for seats next to our friends. Once more or less settled, the Principal introduced us to a man.
He was different from the typical stiff tied puppet that was usually announced. This guy was not perfect, he had scars. This fact in itself caught our attention.
Then he began to speak, and we listened to his story.
He had been injured in Vietnam. He was on a patrol boat on a river. The air was thick with smog and the river was even filthier. He stood on deck keeping watch, an enemy boat approached and fighting commenced. A phosphorus grenade exploded in his hand and ignited him. He was thrown free from the vessel, and into the oil filled river. The river burned and so did he.
He ducked under the water to escape the flames, but the water was so polluted they would not extinguish. He started to sink, yet the fire still burned. He burned all the way down, and all the way back up as he swam for the surface.
Even then he had a zest for life. It would have been easy to just give in and be engulfed. But he wasn’t done yet.
Guided by the flames above, he broke through gasping for air. He was pulled back onto the boat and the flames were beat out.
I can’t imagine the agonizing pain he must have went through just to live. But live he did. He recuperated, slowly. And fate brought him to my school.
By now the room was silent. Each lost in their own thoughts. And then he started to yell. To yell about how we are wasting our lives. Lives that we have, due to the sacrifices of our soldiers.
It was at this point in time that the staff started to evacuate us from the room. They escorted us out and I could still hear him shouting out his message.
For us to Live.
That we have a purpose.
And then we were rushed down the hallways, and back to our safe little rooms.
Then it happened.
The teacher apologized to us.
I was pissed then, and I’m still pissed now.
So this book is being written for him. And for anyone who needs to be reminded that they have a purpose. That they need to live.
Living is so much more than just surviving. Surviving is the easy part. Living is hard, but oh so worth the effort.