So That Others Might Live

“So that others might live.” I’m sure you’ve heard it. It’s always said with conviction, of course, and we nod in understanding, perhaps not realizing at the time what those words really mean. If we really understood, if the weight of that burden was clear to us at the time, would we have simply nodded in understanding or agreed enthusiastically? The concept, although easy to grasp in theory, is difficult to truly understand until tragedy touches home and that toll is collected from those we love.

Several years ago I was traveling on a business trip and was in a hotel lobby with colleagues when I received a call from James, “I’m going on a search and rescue, not sure when I’ll be back, but I’ll call you when I can.” In response to my friend’s raised eyebrow, I relayed the message. “Doesn’t it bother you? Don’t you worry?” she asked with concern. “Well, yes,” I said, “I do worry a little. But you get used to it.” The next evening I had not yet heard from James. As I laid in bed I pushed away worrisome thoughts, convincing myself that the C-130 was rock-solid and chiding myself for letting silly thoughts run through my head.

In the wake of the loss of the Sacramento crew a wave of emotions runs through me. I’ve cried for those that lost their lives, and even more for those that they left behind. My heart breaks for those that were out long days and nights looking for their own in vain and for those that could do nothing to help. I’ve had anger, fear and guilt. Guilt at being relieved that it wasn’t my husband. Anger that it happened at all. And fear that it could happen again. My self-delusional bubble that allowed me to sleep at night while my husband was flying long hours officially burst. As I read comments from friends in the Coast Guard and their spouses, the sentiment seems the same. The reality of those words, “so that others might live” has officially hit home.

I know my husband. I know he, like others in the Coast Guard are brave and strong and will do what needs to be done in order to get the job done and protect others. Even if it is at the cost of their own safety. And selfishly, that scares me. And while I admire the honor in the phrase, when I think about those that are suffering such great loss right now I can’t help but wonder why. Why must some die so that others might live? But I know the answer to that. I know that the world needs the brave that are willing to risk all to save another. Our family and friends in the Coast Guard make that choice every day they get on a plane or go out to do their job. Because of that daily sacrifice they are the best part of humanity.

Perhaps my friend Ta Chan here in Japan said it best. When I first arrived I was trying to explain to him what my husband did for a living. I carefully and slowing laid out the list of things while Yuki translated for her husband. I simply explained search and rescue, port security and drug interdiction, making no attempt at embellishments for ease of translation. Ta Chan, nodding his head let out a slow “ohhhhh” indicating his understanding and added in broken English, “Ah, yes, Hero.”

“These poor, plain men, dwellers upon the lonely sands of Hatteras took their lives in their hands, and, at the most imminent risk, crossed the tumultuous sea…, and all for what? So that others might live to see home and friends.” – Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service, 1885.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those that are suffering something there is no consolation for.


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