Good fences make good neighbors, and these were apparently good enough that they had not felt the need for razor wire at the top. I crested the fence, threw myself into the yard beyond, fell, rolled to my feet, and ran with the expectation of being garroted by a taut clothesline.

I heard panting, looked down, and saw a gold retriever running at my side, ears flapping. The dog glanced up at me tongue rolling, grinning, as though jazzed by the prospect of an unscheduled play session.

We must have our goals, our dreams, and we must strive for them. We are not gods, however; we do not have the power to shape every aspect of the future. And the road the world makes for us is one that teaches humility if we are willing to learn.

That was one of the most fundamental and sacred duties good friends and families performed for one another! They tended the flame of memory, so no one’s death meant an immediate vanishment from the world; in some sense the deceased would live on after their passing, at least as long as those who loved them lived. Such memories were an essential weapon against the chaos of life and death, a way to ensure some continuity from generation to generation, an order of endorsement and meaning.

In the war, to survive, you had to be responsible every minute of every day, unhesitatingly responsible for yourself, for your every action. You had to be responsible for your buddies, too, because survival wasn’t something that could be achieved alone. That’s maybe the one positive thing about fighting in a war – it clarifies your thinking and makes you realize that a sense of responsibility is what separates good men from the damned.

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