by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

We’ve seen their faces and heard their names. We’ve learned their ages and where they were from. My heart breaks when I see television news reports informing us American soldiers have died.

This time loss of life wasn’t in battle. It was going to be what’s known as a “flyby” over the Liberation Day parade, celebrating the U.S. liberation of Guam from Japan. Flybys are something B-52s and some other military planes probably consider routine and I suspect the crews who fly these missions feel honored to take part. But this time, something went terribly wrong and six soldiers were lost in the B-52 crash off the coast of Guam.

When I first heard the tragic news of the crash, my heart sank when I considered the possibility that my son-in-law could have been part of the crew. We were relieved to hear of his safety, but our relief for him was soon turned to shock and sadness when we discovered that one of the crew lost was a good friend to our daughter and son-in-law.

Suddenly the loss of a soldier became “more real” as my husband and I reflected on our memories with this young man.

It has been difficult in these past few days to continue on with my daily activities and responsibilities without the dark cloud of melancholy hanging over me. In fact, I’ve found myself feeling guilty every time I laughed. In every happy moment, I couldn’t help but think about all the dear families and friends of these soldiers who were — in that same moment — consumed with grief.

I have to express my enormous gratitude for these and all American soldiers. Let us never forget that our American soldiers choose to be soldiers. They choose to put their life at risk when duty calls. They choose to do everything in their power to keep us safe and free. And their families, too, willingly and graciously live the life that puts “country” before all else.

It has recently occurred to me that we — all of us American citizens — are the legacy of our American soldiers. We owe them our lives — lives that must be lived to their fullest potential. And this is the greatest tribute we could possibly give to soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

So I will do my best, dear soldiers, to live a life that will make you proud. I will strive to live a life that is worthy of your life and death. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Soldiers must have extraordinary love for their country and their fellow citizens to be willing to relinquish their lives for others! I wonder if I could ever love that much.

Can you imagine a world where every citizen loves each other unconditionally and impartially? A world where each person is always ready to lend a hand when help is needed? A world where people believe the safety and welfare of others comes before their own? A world where respect, loyalty and trust is never questioned or doubted? Such is the world of the American soldier.

We have much to learn, my fellow citizens, from our soldiers. Their lives and sacrifices teach us many invaluable lessons. We are privileged to have our lives and freedoms in their strong and faithful hands. May we always be a grateful nation and never forget to show it. And may you and I remember that we must show our gratitude with our own lives well-lived!