America's freedom gained through other's courage

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Pete Davey
  • 309th Fighter Squadron commander
What is courage? The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self- possession, confidence and resolution." 

July 4 was a profound date for all of us, and it was fantastic we got to celebrate and commemorate our 231-year history as a nation. It's important to remember that it was more than a day off, barbeque by the pool, and watching fireworks. It was a day that spread the seeds of liberty and forever changed the world. Independence Day should not be the only day our freedoms are reflected upon, but they should be reflected upon year-round. 

Our freedom was gained by the courage and bravery of our founding fathers and is sustained by our armed forces who are deployed abroad to fight tyranny. We are at war -- a war that has cost us more than 3,500 casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. 

That sobering statistic unfortunately used politically without any understanding of what these courageous men and women spent their blood fighting for. For those of us who proudly wear this uniform, we engage within our civilian community to ensure days like Independence Day carry a stronger meaning. Sometimes however, we miss the fact that courage is best exemplified not by those who shed blood, but by those who know they will die, yet live courageously making every day count. 

Let me tell you about one of the most courageous people I have seen in a long time. Her name is Maya Sigelnski. She is a nine-year-old girl who battled an acute case of leukemia that finally took its toll on June 24. We had the privilege to meet Maya and her family and give her a tour of the squadron, jets and base as part of the Pilot for a Day Program. At the time, she was only expected to live for five more days, but managed to survive for eighteen. It was an amazing effort by all base agencies to make the day special for her. She had a blast. Her mother was so thankful to the men and women of Luke who made her daughter's day special. It makes you take stock in life  when that one day maybe your last. She truly lived her life as if that one day was her last. 

A line in the movie "Braveheart" said it best, "All men die, but not all men truly live." Maya was one of those people who truly lived and is a shiny example to us. When people ask what we fight for today, remember Maya. Remember that she was a fighter in every sense of the word. 

We fight so our friends, family and total strangers can truly live each day, just as our courageous Founding Fathers and Maya did. Live each day as if it was your last.