Is it Better to Live a Coward, or Die a Hero?

January 8, 2008
By Kevin Urquhart, Orem, UT

Is it better to live a coward, or die a hero? I have lived a coward, and I would rather have died a hero. I would have died a hero, had I not been a coward, with an irresistable will to live. Being a coward defeats the purpose of living. Living just to live is worthless. Living without accomplishment is a sin. If you die a hero, at least you were a hero, and that will certainly count for something in the next life.

Shots rang out in the night, smoke rose to the stars, snow flew in every direction, men screamed orders, and amidst all of this, one soldier ran. He ran as far and as fast as he could. He didn't know where he was headed, but he knew he was escaping the War. With so much blood, and hate around him, he had become afraid, and had deserted.
That soldier was me. It was an easy getaway. Everyone was too busy fighting, yelling, and shooting to notice one stray man. I held on to my gun as I ran North, through the deep Canadian snow. I ran for days, and stopped only when I couldn't run anymore. I was delirious by that time. I was hopelessly lost, cold, and hungry. The snow provided sufficient drinking water for me, but I knew that my life was hanging on a thread.
On the sixth night of my getaway, I utilized my last hope, and fired my gun repeatedly into the night sky. I hoped there was a city near enough to me that my bullets would be heard, and that the shots would be recognized as a cry for help. I was hoping for salvation.
An hour or two later, an emergency helicopter flew in and landed close to me in the snow. I had almost gone insane at that point, and didn't realize the miracle of it all. The medics helped me into the helicoptor and we flew to the nearest city which happened to be Toronto, and from there, I was driven to a hospital. The helicoptor's crew, the driver of the car, and the medics at the hospital were Canadian. And they were showing an unbelievable amount of generosity and kindness by taking me in, while I was clearly of the enemy. My flag was sewn to my uniform, on my right shoulder.
Though my family was obviously relieved that I was safe and alive, there was a subtle grimace of disappointment on my parents' faces as we embraced in the lobby.

I was declared missing in action, and then forgotten. I wasn't punished when I came back to America, probably because I never did anything useful enough to catch the attention of anyone remotely important. I lived a sad, uneventful life.

People think I died a hero, but my family knows the truth, some of my closest friends know the truth, and most importantly, I know the truth. As I hear my former comrades tell stories of their Canadian War heroics, and worse, when I hear about the courageous men sho died in the War, I am ashamed of myself. I would rather have suffered and died at the hands of the enemy then to have run like I did.
And I now realize that the moment I quit that day, I made it easier for me to quit the next day, and the day after that, and the day I quit college, and the day I quit my job, and the day I decided to stay home for the rest of my life, and depend entirely on my aging parents. The day I quit the War, I quit the rest of my life. One life-saving, yet cowardly act, ruined my life.
If I could go back again, I wouldn't run. I would stay there and fight until my hands froze off, or until I was hit, or until my heart stopped, or until the War was over. I would work harder than anyone had ever worked before,for any purpose.
But I can't go back. I did run. And it's far too late to change my actions. I have already lived the life of a coward.
So I advise you, with all the sincerity of my heart, if faced with a situation similar to mine, refuse to be a coward, even if death is the consequence. Don't run. You will regret it for the rest of your life, and the reason for which you gave up, to live, will become of little worth. Stay and fight. Stick it out. Shoot until you can't shoot anymore. And live your life so that none may, in honesty, call you a coward.
I have seen the error of my ways. I understand that my cowardice was a sin. But I can't take it back. I can't relive it. It's always there, an eternal blemish upon my soul. I was a coward. I am a coward. I will always be a coward. If you wish to live a life likemine, completely useless, without accomplishment, burdening to those around you, and not remarkable in the least, then go ahead and run. Run like there is no tomorrow.
But if you wish to live a life that, whether cut short or not, was spectacular, heroic, great, legendary, and worth remembering, then stay and shoot your gun until it's broken.

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