This is your life, are you who you want to be?

  • Published
  • By Whitney Rogers
I will never forget driving home from lunch that Sunday afternoon in Maryville, Tenn., when my parents received a phone call. My mom answered the phone and made the tell-tale gasping noise she only makes when something is wrong and started crying. She hung up the phone and told us my cousin, Daniel, had been killed in Iraq. 

Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Morris, 28, of Clinton, Tenn., died Nov. 25, 2006, in Al Judiah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Daniel was in a humvee with three other soldiers. The other three soldiers received varying degrees of injuries. Daniel took the brunt of the explosion and was the only one killed. 

He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. He was a Bradley Armored Personnel Carrier operator. 

After Daniel's funeral, the first time I heard Switchfoot singing, "This is your life, are you who you want to be?" I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. 

When I heard this song, I was on my way home from work that day, stuck in traffic on the interstate, and was thinking about my cousin and all of the events surrounding his death. Hearing that song helped me realize who Daniel really, at that moment, was.
Daniel was a loving son. A father. A Christian. But most importantly he was a soldier. Since he was just a kid, he had always dreamed of serving in the Army. 

Being a soldier was his life. He was exactly who he wanted to be. The stories friends and family shared about Daniel after his death reinforced that. The examples are many. 

He bought a car for the sole purpose of picking people up and taking them to church on Sunday mornings. He replaced the front door of the Servicemen's Home he lived in before he left for Iraq. He bought a riding lawnmower so the congregation could mow their property. Everything he did, he did for the glory of God. 

There is one story in particular I will never forget. Reverend Matthew Reed, the minister at the church Daniel attended near Fort Hood, keeps a map with pushpins in it to show where all the soldiers he knows are deployed. Before Daniel left for his second tour of duty in Iraq, he gave Reverend Reed a Purple Heart pushpin. 

Somehow, Daniel must have known he was not coming home but he went anyway. He went and proudly served his country, and like so many of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, he gave his life for his country and for the Iraqi people. It was who he was. 

During the eulogy, Reverend Reed described Daniel as Clark Kent and Superman. In civilian clothes, he was Clark Kent. But when he put on his uniform, he was Superman. 

Daniel has been described as the type of person who would lie down in a puddle so you could cross. 

Daniel was a loving, caring person. He could answer that question in the song, "Are you who you want to be?" without a second thought. 

Not many people can truly say they are who they want to be or doing what they want to be doing. 

The lessons I learned from Daniel are amazing. I have learned that I am not invincible. Along with the good, bad things can and will happen. What is important is how I choose to deal with whatever happens. 

I have learned that making the most of my life should be a much higher priority on my "to do" list than what it has been. 

I cannot accomplish anything by sitting back, being complacent and letting the world move around me. Instead, I should, as they say, "Grab the bull by the horns" and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. 

There are no guarantees in life. Every day is a gift and I need to make the most of it.
I still have the e-mail I received from a co-worker that was the official news release of Daniel's death. At the top of the e-mail, my co-worker wrote, "He died a hero. Always remember that." 

Daniel will always be my hero. He will always be an example of someone who unselfishly gave his life and lived every moment being exactly who he wanted to be.
So here is my challenge to you: This is your life. Are you who you want to be?