"To be prepared to die is to be prepared to live."
We noticed the historical marker at the end of the block in the Seven Points district in Florence, Ala. And after a visit to Eleven54 on Wood and Autographs antique store, shops owned by a charming Florence couple, we decided to find out what it said.
Reaching the sign, we discovered an unfamiliar name: Homer Givens, a Florence native and recipient of the Croix du Guerre.
According to the Library of Congress, Givens was a hero from World War I – America's first. He was part of the First Infantry Division, "the Big Red One," led by the legendary Gen. John J. Pershing.
My husband Chris and I grew up in Alabama – how had we missed this 19-year-old's tale of courage?
"Early morning, Aug. 2, 1917, Cpl. Givens and four other men were in a listening post in a shell crater in advance of the American lines. They were spying on the Germans.
Suddenly, a group of Germans came over the ridge after shelling the American men with artillery.
Cpl. Givens' men started back for the trenches, but Cpl. Givens didn't run. Instead, he fired on the Germans, killing three before he was hit by what some accounts say was by a German bomb. Givens rolled back into the large crater and pretended to be dead. The Germans, assuming he was dead, left.
When examined by the hospital surgeons, it was discovered Givens had 23 pieces of shrapnel in his chest!
Givens was also awarded several Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart for his bravery in WWI. The U.S. Government did not send his Purple Heart to him until 1970, a year before his death."
How did a 19-year-old decide not to run? How did a 19-year-old have the strength to fire, even as his men left?
Perhaps it's because Homer Givens knew long before he set sail for the war that he was not afraid to die.
Have we reached the same conclusion?
"The person who's brave wins. Period," Tucker Carlson recently said. "Do you want your children to be able to live here? Do you want to have grandchildren at all? And if you're not brave, that won't happen."
"Be brave. And by the way, there's nothing easier. The key to being brave is brooding about death. … Because you know it's going to end, on some level. …
It's essential not to be afraid to die. And once you decide, I'm not afraid to die, nothing scares you."
Carlson is right.
Nothing will scare us if we know the answer to that question – an answer we need now more than ever.
Not just because our former president continues to be targeted by maniacs. Nor because Kevin McCarthy was dumped. Nor because some pro-lifers are told to "tone it down, stupid."
Nor that we're staring down another Alabama legislative session filled with the usual rumblings from the Mary Jane klatch, the gamblers, or the gaslighting flamethrowers in our libraries.
No. Those are only symptoms of the problem.
The problem is, we're lost – and I mean the 1970s family road trip kind. We're stopped on a sketchy back road because we ran out of gas, and there's no phone booths, houses, or people for miles. We're that lost.
And we're held back by a withering fear of speaking out and then getting canceled, of losing friends and of being deserted by family. Or even fear over our government coming for us. So terror shuts our mouths and kills our resolve.
Or if it's not fear, then it's blazing apathy because the bread and circus we're provided, as Todd Earzen of the Steve Deace show often says, is enough. Daily distractions keep us constantly occupied and comfortably numb even as our tattered country falls.
How do we find ourselves again? How do we live like Homer Givens – able to charge our enemies even if our friends turn back?
We do it by deciding once and for all that we're unafraid to die, and then fearlessly living our lives out.
"I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead – and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead and then they would be honest so much earlier." - Mark Twain
Amie Beth Shaver is a speaker, writer and media commentator. Her column appears every Wednesday in 1819 News. Shaver served on the Alabama GOP State Executive Committee, was a candidate for State House District 43 and spokeswoman for Allied Women.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
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