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The Two Most Important Days

“The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you understand why.”

I had the privilege of returning to the Naval Academy to honor a graduate who distinguished herself on the basketball court as the Captain of the Navy Women’s Basketball team and in the Fleet as a Naval Aviator. Commander Becky Dowling Calder, a graduate of the class of 1998 and Navy F/A-18 Hornet pilot became the first female graduate of Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, better known as Top Gun.

In her remarks, Commander Dowling Calder reminded the 200 people in the audience that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you understand why. She then told the story of the day she came to understand why she was born. Becky recounted the day during a deployment to Afghanistan, when she was called upon to put her years of training into action on the battlefield in support of a pinned down Army Airborne unit.

Her story was riveting and heart wrenching. She held back tears as she spoke honestly about the emotional toll the battle took on her. A decade later, the emotional wounds were still visible, yet she continued to share her story.

After returning to the States from her deployment, Becky had a chance encounter with an Army medic who cared for two wounded soldiers in Germany around the same time as her mission in Afghanistan. The soldiers told the medic the story of the firefight that landed them in his medical ward and the pilot whose actions shifted the momentum of the battle in their favor. One of the soldiers asked the medic to find and thank the courageous Navy pilot who saved the lives of all the men in his unit that day. The medic agreed and months later, by chance had the opportunity to fulfill the soldier’s request. He thanked Becky and that day she came to understand why she was born.

Since Becky shared her story, I have been thinking about the purpose of life. I agree with her, we are all born for a unique purpose. Although I think it is rare for us to recognize and truly appreciate that exact moment we realize it. For most of us, our time and energy is spent chasing material gains and judging our lives and each other based upon what we have or what we have accomplished. If we spent the same amount of energy reflecting on how we live our lives and appreciating the positive impact we have on others, I believe more of us would come to understand and embrace the reasons we were born.

I have yet to begin to understand the reason I was born. I can only hope that when that day comes, I am able to stand with grace and dignity like Commander Becky Dowling Calder and know that my life was not in vain.

Have you come to understand why you were born?

Share your experiences in the comment section below.

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