22 Years and 5 Days: A Life Well Lived

June 4, 2010

By R.W. Hampton

Last Monday, Memorial Day, Lisa inspired me to do something different, something special that would teach our boys and remind us adults about the real meaning of this day.  And so, about sundown, we found ourselves at a little mountain cemetery almost hidden in the shadows of the pines, sagebrush and yucca plants.

We were there to visit the final resting place of Lance Corporal Chad Hildebrandt U.S.M.C. As Lisa, the boys and I laid flowers on his grave, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of a life well lived. Lisa and I talked about how Chad’s sacrifice in Operation Iraqi Freedom has blessed and inspired so many and continues to do so even today. It would seem that laying down one’s life to help buy freedom for a stranger on foreign soil would be enough, but it doesn’t stop there.

Lance Corporal Chad Hildebrandt U.S.M.C.

My song, For the Freedom, was partially inspired by this man. I know my own son’s choosing to join the Marine Corps was influenced by Chad’s service. This life that lasted only 22 years and 5 days has birthed friendships and bonds that will last forever. A career in teaching rose up and grew from a mother‘s love and grief. Now countless children reap the benefits of this woman’s love and nurturing, not the least of whom is my 3-year-old son, Ethan. And on and on it goes.

Many of us could make it to the century mark and not make such a positive impact and leave so rich a legacy.
And so a life well lived, no matter how short, is still a life well lived. Especially when that life ends while performing one’s earthly calling, passion and duty. I know when this man met his maker, he was greeted by the words, “ Welcome home, warrior. Well done. Well done!”
Is there any greater achievement than this? I think not!


9 Responses

  1. RA Hampton says:

    Wow! Lisa suggested a wonderful way to observe the day and its true meaning. Impact isn’t lost on the boys and through your sharing will impact many. Chad and so many others through the years have fought so that we and others can have the freedom we often take for granted. God Bless them –each and every one.

  2. Autrey Justice King says:

    I lost my husband and many friends in Vietman,so of course I think this is a really cool thing.Not enough people give these young men and women the support and praise.We as a country must remember that freedom is not free.

  3. Chad's Proud Parents says:

    So very beautiful and heartwarming in honor and memory of the most special son. Chad’s life was too short on this Earth but the time spent here was well lived. As a child he was a shy and quiet boy, he grew into a normal teenager that loved sports and all things that go with becoming a man. At age 19 he graduated from high school and left 8 days later to complete his goal to become a United States Marine. This was his dream from about age 8 when we found him hanging the GI men up from fishing line in his room across the ceiling. Not many parents can say that their child actually fulfilled their life long dream. We can and are so very proud to be the parents of Chad Robert Hildebrandt. Thank you RW and Lisa for taking time with your family to teach them about the men and women that protect this country and our freedoms. The generations past and the future must know and understand and more importantly respect our military for their service and their choice to serve. God Bless you and your family. We will keep Cooper in our prayers as he heads off to continue the fight to protect our freedom. Love to all. Bob and Coleen

  4. Jaime Perez says:

    I just wanted to say from a military stand point. I have served most of my early adult life in the military and on foreign soil so others could enjoy the life of freedom and democracy. Durning my many battles overseas I lost many friends and had to write countless letters to family members telling them how bravely there loved ones gave their lifes for freedom and country. I know this family and they have inspired me to write a letter to my best friends family about how and when he had passed away. Im just so sad to say that they will never be able to see it. You see they all are in heaven with him and know it all with out me saying a thing. Mr. Hampton my daughter goes to school with your son and I do want them all to know just how much we as soilders love them all and would lay our lifes down just so they can live a life without fear. This Memorial Day I sat in my room and cried and remembered all the good times and bad times. If you ever want to know what soilders go thru call me I would be more than happy to give my stories and most of all to try to release these demons that haunt me in my sleep.

  5. Bob and Coleen says:

    Jamie, you should start a daily journal. Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and all that your heart and soul feels is healthy and will help with those demons. We believe in our hearts that the Lord knew Chad would battle the biggest war of his life with what a warrior goes through and so we feel that he was spared these demons that you and so many other veterans challenge every single day. We have the special letter that you wrote and gave to us to hold and it is in Chad’s cabinet and we hold pride that you entrusted such a personal matter with our family. God Bless You and Thank you for your service to our Country and your continued patriotism.

  6. Jay Johnson says:

    As a retired Marine and a veteran of a couple of conflicts myself I was really touched by this blog. Not many people take the time to even stop and consider that our lives would not be the same if it werent for young men and women who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. I am thankful to a great God who allowed me to return from those conflicts unharmed and I know that because of those experiences my life will never be the same. My 3 year old nephew was up in Big Sky country over Memorial Day and I have taken him to a memorial service every year since he was born. I think he needs to know as well as all our children what sacrifice truly is. Thank you for remembering those who gave all they had. I will continue to read and enjoy this blog as often as I can. Thanks again and Semper Fidelis!!

  7. I want I had these kinds of wonderful insight on that subject.

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