Courage: Formed, Practiced and Applied in Adversity
Our study of character continues with the interviews and stories of warriors with character recovering from traumatic combat injuries. While many among us consider these warriors as moral exemplars of our times and often thank them for their service, we still often fail to appreciate the virtues evident and the sacrifices made by these wounded warriors as they struggle to overcome traumatic injuries from the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.
The Character Building Project aims to change this situation. It highlights how our wounded warriors develop virtues, and put them into practice, particularly the virtue of courage amidst adversity. By placing young military heroes front and center for all to see, The Character Building Project reminds us all, including young Americans who have not known service to our country, that cultivating the virtue of courage is important in our citizens and critical to the successful recovery of our war wounded.
The interviews of the warriors with courage, read like the book by Robert Fulghum entitled, All I Really Needed to Know… I Learned in Kindergarten. The warriors describe the development of good character habits early in their childhood and their rules for virtuous living sound like Fulghum’s advice: Play fair. Share. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Put things back where you have found them. Clean up your own mess…
Wounded warriors and their families live the aphorism that crisis does not build character, but reveals it. By witnessing their heroic rehabilitation and comprehending the mental toughness of their supportive spouses and families along the protracted march to a successful recovery, we can all learn much about the virtue of courage.
“The die is cast” once a warrior is wounded. But the virtues that come to the surface have been there all the time, carefully cultivated over their young years. As we read the descriptions of the extent of their injuries, we are immediately in awe of their physical stamina and courage. However, we gain even greater insight from the virtues they have developed in the military as they are tested during their recovery: integrity, honor, respect, duty, loyalty, service and courage. These traits are worthy of emulation by all Americans.
It is a great privilege for me to witness the “family virtues” the warrior families exhibit during their loved one’s successful rehabilitation. First, one observes the unconditional love between and among family members as they rally around the wounded warrior. Second, the entire families exhibit integrity, loyalty, and duty to their warrior as all endure and meet the long rehabilitation challenges and finally reach a successful outcome. And finally, it is humbling to see the selfless loyalty of the wounded warriors themselves as they take responsibility not only for their own recoveries, but reach out to there fellow-wounded with encouragement and support.
It was Walter Lippman who said, “He has honor if he holds to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable or dangerous to do so.” At a time in our country when there is a diminished sense of morality and idealism, we can learn much from the honorable wounded warriors who are returning from war.