By Kangsten Masango
On the morning of September 22, 1776, near present day Grand Central, New York, NY, an American patriot was executed for espionage. His name was Captain Nathan Patrick Hale. According to eye witness accounts, Capt. Hale was the embodiment of dignity in his final hour, one which concluded with him saying “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
I had never heard about Capt. Hale before I joined the Army, some two hundred and twenty-six years after his exploits in the Revolutionary War. That did not matter to my drill sergeant. Shortly after arriving Fort Leonard Wood, MO, for basic training, I was getting yelled at for not knowing what I couldn’t have known-and the yeller knew this.
“What is the maximum effective range of an excuse soldier?” was his follow up question.
“I do not know drill sergeant” I replied. My voice was hollow with uncertainty, the by-product of being a freshly shorn private during basic combat training. Confidence was yet to come.
“Soldier, push” he said nonchalantly. I assumed the push-up position and started doing push-ups. As he did not give me a specific number of push-ups to do, I knew I was going to be doing push-ups forever.
“Would you give all your lives for your country?” he yelled to the platoon of which I was a member.
“HOOOAAAAHH” was the thundering response.
“Hooah” in its truest form, is a military mantra of positivity. Colloquially, it is like saying “yes” enthusiastically.
It’s one thing to assume that we have multiple lives. It’s another thing to assume that after enduring the hardships of combat, I’d want to do it again. But assuming that I’d choose to give up my life multiple times is a stretch. How about I serve one life as a patriot, another as a bohemian, and the other seven as a billionaire? Such was my thinking when I heard this question, and consequently, my “Hooah” was not as loud.
Furthermore, the physical strain of doing push-ups forever in the mugginess of Fort Leonard Wood, MO, late in the summer of 2002, turned me into a whimpering mess. My triceps were lifeless, and my chest muscles had turned into a mass of tension. However, there was a smile on my face because I was partaking in the American legacy of soldiery.
Throughout my time in the military, I lost brothers and I always wondered if they’d do it again had they known death was their fate. Would they die, over and over again, for the ideal that is America? Is that what their death was for in the first place?
Nevertheless, it is when I thought of their courage that I knew the answer to these questions. Yes. They would do it all over again, and die a million deaths for their belief in America. I’d do it again for the glorious honor of being by their sides.
On the evening of August 25 th 2018, another American patriot name John McCain blessed America with his dying breath. As a consequence, the Land of the Free became more hallowed after cradling his remains. With the one life McCain had, he lived in service to his country, family, and fellow man. He lived to fight because he was a fighter, with a fighter’s neck, a granite chin, and the tenacity of an unconquerable soul. He was all heart, all honor, and all American. His death charges us with the duty to be fair like him; honorable like him; and to give everything like he did because, as he said in his farewell letter, “… Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves…”
John McCain regrets that he had but one life to give for his country. We know this because we lived it with him. His time in the military, his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, his time as legendary bull-headed senator, his eternity in the collective American consciousness as a true patriot in a land afflicted with jingoism, are all indicative of this sweet patriotism. We regret that he only had one life too. But, we are eternally thankful.
Rest in peace Sir.