"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms: it means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die."
- Gilbert K. Chesterton
Now and then I find myself on the back of a boat with someone famous - sometimes they are great to have on board (funny, friendly, easy going), and sometimes they're an ass.
Often the best thing about having a famous passenger is being able to tell your gondolier friends that you took them out.
Most don't actually live up to the hype.
I've had people on my boat who I knew were there to evaluate the experience (travel writers, reviewers, etc.) and I tend to pay a bit more attention to details - knowing full-well that everything can and will be critiqued.
But there is one class of passengers who I take more seriously than any other - servicemen who are about to be deployed.
With two conflicts being actively fought right now, there are a lot more men and women calling my company and looking to do something special before their departure. I've had a lot of these folks on my gondola lately, and it affects me more than I would ever have thought.
In my twenties I came very close to joining the Marine Corps, since then I often wonder what my life would be like if I had signed up. Dreams of being stationed in exotic countries and "seeing the world" used to be common. Back then we had no wars going on.
If I had joined, I would likely have ended up in Kuwait; Desert Storm took place shortly after that point.
These days when I entertain the same wonderings,
I think about all of our men and women in uniform, who are willing to put their lives on the line for this country...and do. I'm humbled.
Whenever I visit my Texas operation, I pass through the DFW airport; it's impossible to walk through that place without seeing men and women in uniform - going and coming from long tours in dangerous places.
The ones coming home have a look of relief, of homecoming.
The ones shipping out have an entirely different expression - they know that they might not come home alive.
So when I find myself rowing for a guy who's about to be deployed - I take it seriously. When I tell him to kiss his sweetheart under the bridge, it's easy to get choked up, knowing that he's making a memory he'll need to hang on to for a long time - as he goes to a dangerous place and risks it all for the rest of us. When I sing for these couples - I give it my all.
As the 4th of July draws near, I encourage all of my American readers to think of these men and women. Think of how much they are willing to sacrifice for this country to keep it great.