Every Greek is saddened and shocked by the death of Captain Giorgos Baltadoros off the island of Skyros Thursday and we are grateful to him. The ultimate sacrifice, the loss of an excellent young man in the prime of his life – a husband and father of young children – the reminder that some live with death so that we can enjoy our freedom, underlines the fact that nothing can be taken for granted, nothing is free. Neither freedom nor life.
It is not enough, though, to remember the people who lost everything so that we can go on with our daily lives, taking care of our own families. It is not just the roll of honor – the long list of men and women who gave their lives in service to their country – that keeps them alive among us. Their sacrifice should remind us continually of our debt to them and make us respond accordingly.
Our public life is dominated by a dangerous mix of hyperbole and frivolity, where insignificant differences are taken for mortal division, where the wounds of the past are kept raw, poisoning the present, where personal interests trump concern for the social whole. We forget the meaning of “duty,” “devotion,” “gravity,” “conscientiousness” and “responsibility.” Sidetracked by the shouting on television, caught up in meaningless quarrels on social media, we forget what goes on ever day at our borders – on land, at sea and in the sky. In the same way, we are indifferent to the work carried out in our hospitals, in our streets, every time the fire brigade or ambulance service answers a call, at detox clinics, wherever dedicated professionals provide assistance, security and comfort to those in need. We remember them only when some of them are killed or when we find ourselves needing their help.
An air force pilot’s death is always a shock. Captain Baltadoros, like the heroes who fell before him, was lost at the prime of his life and abilities, at a time when he still had much to give. We see one of the finest of his generation suddenly gone, depriving his children, his wife, his parents of the sense of security and comfort that he provided the whole community with his service and his sacrifice. Our debt to those who fell, to those who will continue to put their lives on the line every day and every night, is to try to be like them – to the extent that each can.
If we set out to do whatever we can to be useful not only to ourselves but to society as a whole, we will build a country that is worthy of the sacrifice of our finest.