It’s a cool, crisp day late in autumn as I walk through Arlington National Cemetery. I can feel the chill on my face from the brisk wind and see the leaves falling off the trees and floating across the ground from the breeze. The cemetery is almost completely empty except for the long lines of graves, the few birds, and me. Many people would look at that those memorials as solemn, depressing site, but I prefer to look at it differently. Instead of death and sadness, I see courage and honor, selflessness and sacrifice, valor and heroism, a way to try and live my life.
Throughout history great acts of courage and sacrifice have shown brightly. These selfless acts go down in the history books and are never forgotten. One such event occurred thousands of years ago at Thermopylae. There, at Thermopylae, a small contingent of Greeks stood vastly outnumbered against the Persian army which had hundreds of thousands of men. The Greeks held back the Persians for several days inflicting heavy losses on the Persian Army. However, by the last day the Persians had finally encircled the remaining Greeks; three hundred Spartans along with a few other Greeks covering the retreat of their allies. Even though the Greeks knew they would die and the battle would be a defeat for them, they made a courageous last stand against the Persians because they knew it would mean victory for the rest of Greece.
From childhood I have constantly heard of stories in the past of immeasurable courage and selflessness like that of the Spartans. Yet, still today I see courageous, selfless warriors such as the Navy SEALs. Now that I am older and graduating from high school, I have come to better understand those virtues and have realized that I want them to define who I am. They have just begun to influence and shape my life, making me aspire to become a Navy SEAL. But in becoming a Navy SEAL, I hope that people will not just remember me as a warrior who was able to grasp a few noble virtues, but used those virtues to make this world a better place and inspire others to do the same.
As the Greeks say “When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime.”
As I stand over these graves, I do not see mere, ancient blocks of stone. I see bravery, I see camaraderie, I see fearlessness, I see dying for a purpose, but more importantly I see living for a purpose. I believe in living life as a true warrior, willing to sacrifice for others, and willing to stand courageously in the face of danger.
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