giving of oneself
   "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

-- Benjamin Franklin (1759)

A Patriot

     And the soldier’s passion for his country spilled out onto the frozen snow, while his blood ran from a finger-size hole in the middle of his chest.  His blood steamed as it hit the cold December air.
     Pinned beneath his weight, his arm propped him on his side and allowed his blood to collect into a pool beneath him.  The swirling vapors rising from the pool reminded the soldier of his wife’s hot coffee.  She’d always make him a cup on cold mornings like this.
     Still and cold, the soldier traced his memories in search of an image of his wife and son.  Focused on their likeness, a single thought raced through his twenty-four-year old mind.  "I will miss you my love.  Take good care of yourself and our son.  I’m not fearful of what’s to become of me since I know you both are safe and distant from harm.  I just pray my sacrifice will keep you protected from the horrors of this Godforsaken war."
     Patches of gray smoke and fog rolled low across the white battlefield, concealing the foot soldiers for brief moments.  The enemy took potshots whenever possible.  For seven days the enemy had had a foothold on the ridge just one hundred yards from where the soldier fell.  This assault met with failure just as had the previous three.
     Death’s stench hung heavy in the air as several dozen dead bodies dotted the battlefield.  This odor will haunt the living soldiers far beyond this latest clash of wills.  What was needed was a good breeze to clear out the stench, but the mountain range to the west blocked the easterly winds.  So, the aroma of death remained stagnate, frozen over the battleground.
     Still, the skirmish raged on in full fury.  Overhead, sprays of lead whistled through the air, cutting down the regiment before they could reach their foxholes.  Nearby the soldier, mortar shells irrupted and rocked the battlefield, sending earth, ice, shrapnel, and fragmented bone and flesh onto and into the motionless body of our fallen patriot.
     Although temporally blinded by the pain in his chest, the darkness enhanced the sounds around the soldier.  The sounds were deafening and dreamy.  Swirling screams of pain and distant cries for help echoed in time with the mortar blasts, while the rat-a-tat of machinegun fire provided a dreadful backbeat that ripped through the retreating soldiers.
     "Withdraw!" had been the lieutenant’s last order before being struck down by an enemy’s bullet.   And as he laid still, trying to drown out the madness about him, a faint smile drew across his lips.
     The grainy snow clung to the soldier's unshaven face.  Numb and shivering, the soldier calmly prayed to his God.  Dying on a foreign field a half world away from home was not what he had expected when signing up.    
     But with death just moments away, his memories brushed through his final thoughts, quieting his fears.  He had no regrets, and he no longer feared death.  He knew liberties and freedoms were worth fighting and dying for, lest they be taken for granted and lost.  And with a silent sigh, our patriot exhaled his last breath.