The morning of the Fourth of July. We celebrate our independence. Do we remember what that means?
Last night was epic. We had 18 mortars loaded ready to be lit. Two other senseless individuals helped. The goal was to make a continuous spray of colorful light fill the sky. Up to that point we had only sprinkled the sky. With propane torch in hand I laid on the street with the wicks facing me, all tied into twos, threes or fours. I feared the burns I incurred in previous years doing this same thing.
The torch turned to high lit the fuses quickly. Within seconds deep concussive blasts launched the explosives hundreds of feet straight up. One after the other, and often simultaneous. I kept lighting, down the line, while over head the sky truly was sprayed with color and noise.
The sixteenth tube was tired. Instead of launching the mortar it exploded off its base and sprayed burning powder back into my face. It felt like someone threw a handful of sand at my face, at high velocity. In my own little way, I felt like I was wounded in battle. And I was proud to have served.
I wish I could say that I have served my country. I would be proud to die that way; for our freedom. I cannot imagine the color and noise in the sky being an enemy’s artillery intended for my harm; intended to kill or to break my will and run; feeling the shredding of shrapnel rather than the grit of gunpowder that I felt. Courage and honor.
Is it less heroic to die another way? It depends on how you die. Tara and I have talked lately about how we do and don’t want to die. It would be horrible to not die well; to not finish your last breath with courage. We have promised each other that we will help the other when that time comes. Where, o death, is your sting? Where, o grave is your victory?