Sgt. First Class Nathan Chapman knew what sacrifice was all about.
With a wife, a two-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son, the Green Beret came from a military family.
He was assigned to duty in Afghanistan shortly after the United States declared its war on terrorism after the Sept. 11 bombings.
Chapman was the first American soldier killed by enemy fire in this war.
As Chapman was leaving for the war, he told his wife that he had a 50 percent chance of surviving the mission and then said goodbye as he headed into battle.
If a Green Beret says there's a 50/50 chance of survival, then it's a good bet that the odds are probably a lot worse.
But Chapman went anyway and sacrificed his life and a future with his family to bring the terrorists that masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks to justice.
Chapman knew the chances of him ever seeing his daughter and son again were slim, yet he still kissed them goodbye, kissed his wife goodbye and walked out the door.
How could he possibly leave, knowing what the chance of the outcome may be?
How did he not just simply remain standing over his son's crib, unable to answer the call?
But he went.
He answered the call, and went to fight for our country and those who were killed Sept. 11.
And he died for Americans everywhere.
This past year has seen a lot of death and horror.
More than 3,000 people went to work on that clear fall day, saying goodbye to their loved ones and friends, many for the last time.
And that's what makes Chapman's sacrifice all the more compelling he knew he was probably saying the final goodbye, but those 3,000 who died on Sept. 11 did not.
They walked out the door expecting another day of work, another day of earning a living. Instead, they died in the most horrific terrorist attack in modern history.
Chapman left his family to avenge those who were slain.
And, he left knowing his life would most likely be lost in that cause.
This is a true hero.
Along with the new-found respect for law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel, soldiers who fight and sometimes die for our safety and freedom are once again rightfully being held in esteem above athletes, actors and other celebrities.
It makes me proud, amazed and a little bewildered to find out that our country can still produce people of Chapman's character, dedication and strength.
It makes me believe that we've still got a shot at making our country with all of its problems, issues, challenges and struggles one of the best places to live.
Of course, it's not that simple. This country, which has produced soldiers such as Chapman, and the police, fire and rescue workers who ran into the burning World Trade Center Towers, has also produced a generation that includes some badly damaged children.
And if that is an indicator of what our culture can do to people, then maybe we don't have a shot after all.
Over the last three or four years, how many children and teenagers have taken the lives of others?
How many times have they fired upon their classmates, or killed a younger child with a violent wrestling move or by hitting them with rocks or bricks? How many have been sacrificed to these self-centered, delusional responses to what used to be called "just growing up"?
Where are these children coming from?
The offenders cover the entire spectrums of race, religion and culture. They are seemingly normal children their perspectives a bit skewed, but not killers, or are they?
They go out and sacrifice the children and students around them because they feel 'dorky' or left out. They're bored, and feel as if no one likes them.
Something is pushing them to this extreme violence. Somewhere these children are learning to hurt and kill, and to do it for seemingly no reason at all, or for reasons that even they cannot explain.
Our culture seems to be creating these terribly confused and homicidal people.
Only a few years ago, kids were able to defend themselves without the threat of being shot.
How have the kids who committed these atrocities missed such a basic lesson?
When in trouble, defend yourself, but don't fight any more than you need to. Don't kick anybody when they're down.
But this generation doesn't seem to have been taught this, or they have been taught something else.
Today, if someone is picked on, they bring a weapon to school and start taking lives. And if that is what our future holds, then I don't see us making this country into anything great.
When I think about these things, I am forced to ask what kind of sacrifices our future will hold?
The kind of sacrifices true and clear heroes like Chapman make for others, or the sacrifice of those around a lonely or unpopular kid who sees violence as the only way to react? And what is it about our society that forces us to face a dark side where Chapman's example is a possible future?
Obviously, I don't know the answers to these questions. I can only hope that the answers and solutions are out there, and try to do my part to help find them.
I can only hope that our country can move toward being one that deserves the sacrifices of people like Sgt. First Class Nathan Chapman.