“They risked themselves to ensure the safety of others, and there was something deeply satisfying about that.”
– From The Blood Debt, by Duncan M. Hamilton
In the third and final installment of Hamilton’s Wolf of the North saga, the lead protagonist, Ulfyr, has gained plenty of experience to look back on. At this point, he’s on a particular quest, but the has momentarily paused at a village he was passing through. There were unsettling things happening, which caused the locals to ask for his help, and he gave it. The situation proved unexpectedly dangerous, so he wasn’t able to handle it alone, but some of the village men stepped up, faced the threat alongside him, and together they prevailed.
The next day, Ulfyr noticed a shift in how these men held themselves. They stood taller, straighter, with pride. It reminded him with striking similarity of how he and his friends, warriors and defenders of their homes, had held themselves back in his homeland. In both cases, these were men who faced danger, faced their own fear, for the sake of their families and their community. It is only natural that such men stand tall after doing something so brave and selfless.
Indeed, it is natural that a man be satisfied with himself right after doing something good.
For all that the world tells us to be selfish, to look out for ourselves, to savor all the momentary pleasures it might offer, there is still something deep in our souls that craves something more than all of that. The very core of humanity is selflessness, compassion, the ability to care as much or more for others than for ourselves, followed by the choice to act in accordance with that ability. The satisfaction of this desire is joyful indeed.
A far less worldly source tells us that there is no greater love, meaning no greater act of love, than laying down one’s life for one’s friends. It is the ultimate form of compassion, to place oneself between another person and any threatening danger.
Those who defend us, our lives, our freedom, our safety, and do so regardless of the price they may pay for it… these are men and women who have demonstrated exactly that same love.
Many of them die.
Many come back maimed and scarred, physically or otherwise.
Many carry the eternal burden of lost friends, or sights seen and deeds done that give them nightmares forever.
Many return and end up forgotten and neglected by the very same people they fought and suffered for.
None are perfect. All of them may make mistakes, some of them very bad, before, during, or after. But all of them, at one point, signed a blank check up to and including the loss of their life, in service to others, such as me and my loved ones.
For that, they have my eternal gratitude.
Thank you, veterans.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Stand tall. You deserve to be satisfied with yourselves.