Wounded Warriors… Harnessing Adversity
At the outset of writing Courage in America, I wish to credit the ten wounded warriors who shared with me their arduous journeys from their traumatic injuries to individual greatness. I also wish to acknowledge Dr. Paul Stoltz and Erik Weihenmayer, not only for having greatly influenced my thinking by there book, The Adversity Advantage but also for their ongoing support to the Character Building Project.
In Politics with Principle, I studied ten characters with character who in adulthood, achieved lives of position and prestige in service to others. In giving speeches about these “characters with character” to college age audiences, I was often asked whether I knew any young Americans of outstanding character since Politics with Principle consisted of well educated, mostly lawyers. It was during a questions and answer period of a speech at George Washington University that I determined my next book would address the character and courage of younger Americans.
As part of a service project for the Knights of Malta, a Roman Catholic Hospitalier organization of which I am a member, I had occasion to visit wounded warriors at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. The results of those visits and subsequent visits to Bethesda Naval Medical Center were to focus my research for Courage in America on ten extraordinary young Americans who volunteered for military service since September 11, 2001. By selecting ten wounded warriors for Courage in America who already have, or are in the process of successfully harnessing the adversity of their traumatic injuries, I have been trying to understand why some warriors positively turn their adversity to their advantage and why many others do not.
It is an honor to know wounded warriors. These ten young warriors have found greatness of character by harnessing adversity in overcoming traumatic injuries. Some maybe “works in progress” but all are climbing in a positive way toward everyday greatness. These ten have decided to respond positively to their traumatic injuries with a life committed to growth and continued service.
Along my journey with the ten, I have been asking many questions: How did the successful warriors find meaning in their years of suffering? Why do some warriors become victims and other rare warriors achieve the greatest heights of growth and contribution? Might the stories and example of these ten bring greater meaning not only to future wounded warriors but to their young civilian contemporaries as well?
These warriors taught me the “real war” for them was often fought after experiencing their traumatic injuries. Learning of their rehabilitation helped me recognize their progress was made by patient endurance rather than militant action. Each of the ten goes about their rehabilitation and acquisition of virtue in different ways. The successful one’s have learned to live according to a code of wounded warriors so that their duties of their new state in life are discharged in an amazing and positive way. They have responded to their adversities with a militant spirit that can console them and their loved one’s.
For those who succeed in their rehabilitation it is often by an assiduous application of duty in mentally and physically struggling through their daily therapy challenges. The one’s on the road to recovery develop extraordinary habits of mind and body that enable them to eventually make great strides forward to their ultimate recovery.
In addition to their incredible spirit, other ingredients to their successful recovery, are the equally amazing group of care givers, starting with the corpsmen, medics and other military medical staff in combat to those medical support experts at various military hospitals and especially, the family care giver… the mom’s, dad’s and spouses that fight the even longer war of rehabilitation.
By sharing the stories of how these ten warriors suffered well, it is my hopes not only to inspire wounded warriors to follow but also motivate civilians to consider public service. Those who get to know the wounded warrior community benefit by learning these warriors’ virtues of humility, perseverance, selflessness, patience, resilience and endurance. As we readers learn from the trials of the wounded warriors, perhaps one day we all might share in their glory of everyday greatness.