by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. What you would have noticed first of all was that the pews were filled with young faces… the kinds of faces you don’t usually see amongst the congregation at funeral services in Greensboro, North Carolina. And you knew right away that this was a service for someone who died young, died whilst knowing hardly a thing about life… except that he knew and embodied the most important realization in life… that to give to others is the essence of our humanity… whilst to die for others is sublime.
As David Emanuel Hickman had done…
What you would also have noticed about David Hickman was that he was as near physical perfection as a human can be, so much so that he called himself “Zeus” after the king of the Olympic gods. He didn’t just look good… he looked awesome… toned, sculpted, working as the physical fitness fanatic he was to perfect perfection. He was avid in pursuit of the body to die for, organized, dedicated, committed.
Such people, of course, with eye-popping muscles and the kind of beefcake you see on the covers of magazines in the check-out lane at grocery stores, can easily irk and irritate the rest of the population, too lazy to exercise and yet proud… but David Hickman knew the secret to making even the most jealous like him, for he was the class cut-up… a man whose smile was more killing than his six pack. David loved to laugh… and he loved to make everyone around him laugh, too. We could forgive this kid anything… because he made us laugh at everything… it was his real claim to fame, even when he was masterminding the complicated plays that brought sweet victory to Northeast Guilford High School. For he was, in time-honored American fashion, a grid iron hero…
David relished his time playing football… not least because it gave him the opportunity to create… the most complicated plays, plays which he would sit at home inventing, doodling, making notes on a page that would in due course become the moves that would bring the excited crowd to its feet shouting for David, anxious for more of the same, sure it would come… for David loved the game and relished the fact that it gave him the opportunity to dazzle… even though his ultra complicated game plans had to be put aside after he graduated… mere teen-agers were unable to understand, much less execute them. How David must have smiled when he learned that, “Don’t that just beat all… Don’t that just beat all?”
But as all grid iron heroes learn, football and its perquisites stop.. but life goes on. Thus each such hero must answer one insistent question: what now? For David Hickman this meant the service of America, this meant the army… and so he enlisted. And remember this: he did this of his own choice, his own volition. He was not compelled to do so, neither forced nor drafted. He selected the service of his nation because he believed in this nation, its great mission, and its essential goodness and purpose . David Hickman, American boy, volunteered and volunteered in time of war. This single decision, this action was the determining factor in the remaining time of his short life.
Boy into man.
In the army Hickman learned what every service man learns… the crucial importance of the unit, the team, his buddies. Being a team player for football gave him a head start; he already knew how to turn a commitment to his team mates into victory. These crucial skills, on which more lives depended than just his, were honed in the army, in his unit, the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry. Hickman, more man than boy with every passing day, grew up in his regiment, as so many before him had grown up. It was all about the men and women he served with, men and women who selected the army, the service of the Great Republic… and their fate as warriors in the current of America’s lengthy and growing chain of wars. For be clear on this: in the year Hickman enlisted, in 2009, the great fact of America was America’s current wars, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. And David Hickman knew that service to America would very likely, quite probably mean active duty in one or more of these turbulent, always dangerous war zones.
Whether he enlisted because of this great fact, or in spite of it is not known… but this fact is: he signed his name on the required paperwork… and so declared himself ready for whatever should come. Thus, in due course, David Hickman took his godlike physique, his mega-watt smile, his rollicking humor, and his complete commitment to his country to Iraq and to kismet.
Getting into war — easy. Getting out — hard.
Every nation or political entity always learns one certain, irrevocable fact: that it is easy, ridiculously easy, to get a war, any war, started. The paraphernalia of war is readily at hand, the stirring rhetoric, the certainty that war, always war, must be the solution to any problem, the seemingly irrefutable argument that this war is just, honest, timely, necessary…
Oh, yes, each war, all the wars, have been easily convoked… and so Johnny goes marching from home, all the necessary assurances and certainties in his kit. And the rest of us wish him well and say that this war, like all the previous wars, is necessary and proper; that our cause is always just, and our wars are all needed, each and every one.
Then we discover that war isn’t always the best solution… that war is always muddled, confusing, inept… and expensive. And so painful to see and experience, that the very people we have gone to save are not grateful… are in fact outraged by our presence and wish us to the devil… or at the least to go home soonest. All this invariably surprises, baffles and confuses the likes of David Hickman and all the buddies… for their certainties melt when confronted by the forge of politics, self-seeking, and its multiplicity of shades of gray, instead of the black and white they expected and which had been so clear the day they departed.
And so the team, their buddies and colleagues grows in importance… as does the vital necessity to stay alive, to go home. And a kind of game develops… once the feeling is general that this once certain and necessary war will be over soon, politicians prating of the victory they didn’t get… once this happens, the emphasis is on getting out alive; nothing, absolutely nothing is more important than that.
And so the war that no one now believes in must be kept going, while every thought and every effort is on staying alive… going home.
Killed at 23, November 14, 2011.
David Hickman, so expert at so many games, knew the drill… and took his chances. And died in the process.
He was killed by an improvised bomb, a device characteristic of the Iraq war, a cheap, nasty, made-up weapon that mangled and killed the military professionals of our nation. And on an ordinary day in mid-November cut down David Hickman, too… the beauty of his youth, every possibility of a life graced with goodness, empathy, and a willingness to work to make things better… all this gone because of a random destructive device detonated on a day when all David Hickman wanted was to stay alive and go home.
And he did go home, as nearly 4,500 of our countrymen and women came home… to flags flying, guns firing, salutes smartly given… in a box; the last casualty in a war hardly anyone understood… a war that brought us the obloquy of the world… and a church full of his buddies and comrades, every one young, every one without a line, without a single wrinkle… all thinking of God, of David, of themselves, and most of all about America, our Great Republic… and why Taps is played for so many, so often, so much expected, so little achieved.
Go now to any search engine and play it for David Hickman, and for all the rest; for they all died, each and every one of them, for us.
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About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today. Details at worldprofit.com