“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

If I hit that water, I’ll be dead within five minutes.

I am flying my last mission on my last deployment before starting HBS, hundreds of miles into the freezing North Atlantic Ocean on my way back to the United States. Fuel pressure is dropping and the engines can flame out at any minute. Calm teamwork pushes out denial and fear. Thinking the fuel may be freezing, we intentionally overheat the engines in a last-ditch gamble to survive. Our bet pays off and two and half nerve-wracking hours later we limp into Greenland, landing safely.

Surrounded by comfort today, this experience could be just a youthful adventure story of my past.

That can never be. Comfort can make you complacent.

I survived for a reason. My life has a purpose. To be the best version of myself, find meaning in every moment, value every life with dignity and use my gifts to help improve them.

It’s not some grand sweeping generality in a far-off future. It is immediate and intentional – to serve others even in the smallest gestures and fleeting interactions. I will always remember this.

And remember the icy water below.

— John Paul Andree