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A Soldier's Story

Story by Simon Nguyen
My uncle once told me -- to put on a military uniform is to lose half of your ego. I have always found this to be true. Even though I am by no means a face reader, I have never failed to spot a military man or woman from even the thickest of crowds. There is something so disciplined and self-effacing about military people that sets them apart from non-military folks. 

One thing I do know for sure is that military people are the bravest men and women a country has to offer. No one is more willing to sacrifice for his country than a soldier is. No one would put himself in the line of fire to protect his comrades and to make way for them to move forward like a soldier would. Soldiers are indeed born of a different breed.

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Ethan came from a long line of army men. Both his grandfather and father died while fighting valiantly for their country. For 18 years, his mother had single-handedly raised Ethan and his two sisters. To feed her kids and pay for their education, she had worked countless small jobs. Despite the hardships, no one had ever heard her complaining. She was a remarkable woman, people said.

Ethan and his mother shared a very special bond. He once promised her that he would take care of the whole family when he grew up. He wanted to be the man of the house, just like his father was. After Ethan graduated from college, he shocked his whole family when he announced his plan to join the army. His announcement was greeted with dissent by his sisters. His mother, on the other hand, remained silent. As much as she did not want him to join the military, she understood the military blood that flowed within him. She did not want to keep him back.

A new war had started. Ethan’s unit was sent to the fiercest of the battlefields, an ocean away from home. During that same year, his mother suffered a serious illness; she passed away after one week in intensive care. Knowing how much Ethan’s mother meant to him, his sisters requested the military to grant him a special leave so he could attend his mother’s funeral. The request was granted, but Ethan declined to take the leave. Ethan’s decision to stay with his units rather than to return for his mother’s funeral confounded his sisters. They tried to think of an excuse for his refusal but couldn’t.

On the day of the funeral, a special letter from Ethan was delivered to the family. When his sisters read the letter, they were sobbed with tears. But their tears didn’t come out of sadness; they were the products of joy.

“Mom, you know how much I love you. There is nothing I want more at this moment than to stand beside your grave to bid you a final farewell. However, every one of my comrades has a home they long to return and loved ones they would love to see again. I could not bear returning to the luxury of home and comfort of loved ones, and leave my comrades behind in the heat of battles. Mom, please forgive me. You have always taught me to be a conscious man. I shall not let you down.”

Ethan was killed by enemy fire 5 weeks later. He died in the arms of his comrades. Even as he was dying, he held tightly in his hand a photo of his family and wouldn’t let go. He was indeed a conscious man.

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