by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

We all face crossroads in our lives. We come to a fork in the road. And we make a choice. As the U.S. Memorial Day holiday approaches, I can’t help but reflect on a choice made by many in my family. The choice to serve the United States of America through the armed forces.

A choice made by my dad. Two of my brothers. My uncle, who lost a leg in World War II. My father-in-law. And currently my son-in-law. I have great respect and gratitude for all who have made such a choice. And I admire the reason for their choice — to protect and preserve peace and freedom not only for their country but for all humankind.

When I moved to Tioga, Texas, some 25 years ago now, I learned more about the town’s most famous son — Gene Autry. Many know Gene Autry as America’s Favorite Singing Cowboy. Particularly for his signature song, “Back in the Saddle Again.” But I wonder how many people know that this man made a choice at the height of his career, after World War II broke out, to join the Army Air Force and do his part.

I suspect most everyone remembers the choice Pat Tillman made in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, to give up a lucrative football career to become an Army Ranger. Sadly his choice resulted in the ultimate sacrifice of a fallen soldier.

Why do we build monuments or designate days for tribute and celebration?

Perhaps we need reminders of important events and people who have taught us invaluable lessons. Perhaps commemorating honorable actions of others encourages us to live in an honorable way as we go about our day to day.

There was an article published in the Boston Herald in 1898 at a time when there was strife between the United States and Spain. In the article, Mary Baker Eddy, then a world-known spiritual leader, made what I think is a profound statement: “The character and lives of men determine the peace, prosperity and life of nations.”

As I appreciate the dedicated characters and lives of our soldiers of old and today, I am beginning to consider how the choices I make in life impact others — in my family, in my community and nation and consequently, the world.

I have a choice in the way I think and in what I believe. I have a choice in what decisions I make and what actions I take. I have a choice in how I view my life. The old question whether I see the glass as half full or half empty exemplifies this choice.

Some choices are not easy. Some take us down roads less traveled. For me, one such choice was the decision to home-school our daughter.

Sometimes we can have doubts about the choices we make. We wonder if we’re doing the right thing. Making the best decision.

I’ve found examining motives provides a good basis for making choices. Christ Jesus taught how motives lead to good or bad decisions. When motives are sincere and unselfish, for example, our choices would be on a firm and solid basis. These choices lead to actions that are beneficial to yourself and others.

Our decision to home-school our daughter did turn out to be the best choice for her.

Some choices require confronting and overcoming our fears. I will be forever humbled by the Iraqi citizens who, despite threats and under great risk, voted. Who could forget the woman holding up her ink-stained finger, saying she felt like she had been reborn? Surely, the choice that she made, along with other citizens in her country, ultimately will bless their troubled nation.

I’ve not always made the best of choices and certainly have not always lived up to my own expectations for myself. Looking to models of good character and high ideals can help us make better choices in our life. Divinely impelled choices ally our hearts — and characters — with living more spiritually. More in line with the ultimate role model found in the life and works of Christ Jesus.

Certainly not all of us will serve our country in military duty. But maybe we all serve our country by our character and our lives. We all have choices to make that can build on the example of those who’ve given their lives for the peace, prosperity and life of our nation. Let’s make good ones.