Life of a Coward

January 11, 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 a will to live that could not be resisted. 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 death 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 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, and cold, and hungry. The snow provided sufficient drinking water for me, but I knew that I was hanging by a thread.

On the sixth night, I utilized my last hope, and fired my gun repeatedly into the night sky. I hoped there was a city nearby, and I hoped they would be able to recognize the gunfire as a cry for help.

An hour or two later, an ambulance drove up to me, and the medics helped me up onto a stretcher and into the back of the vehicle. It wasn't until later that I realized how kind these Canadians were, for taking in, and caring for one of the enemy.

Though my family was 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 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 who died in the War, I am ashamed of myself. I would rather have suffered and died at the hands of the enemy than 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 the generosity of my family. 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 be for, 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 no 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 like mine, 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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