After conducting several interviews with our nation’s wounded warriors, reading their stories, and meeting many in the organizations serving them, I am left with amazement and deep respect for the valor and physical bravery of our nations military. Each wounded warrior I interviewed told me, in a matter of fact way, that they were trained to fearlessly run toward the sound of bullets. What motivated their singular ability to do this were these factors: they loved their country more than they feared for their lives; they valued loyalty to fellow-warriors more than securing their own safety; and, they all were, and remain, committed to defending America’s freedom–a cause greater than their individual self-interests.
Later, as I got to personally know many of these wounded warriors, I witnessed example after example of sheer moral courage. I wanted to know what character traits enabled these heroes to successfully recover from traumatic injuries? How did they develop their virtues of perseverance, resoluteness, steadfastness and patience? Their physical stamina was enough to admire by itself, but where did they get the courage, the moral strength to persevere through the rehabilitation of their traumatic injuries?
Through The Character Building Project web site and its Facebook link, my relationships grew within the wounded warrior community. These relationships drove me to better understand the virtue of courage. I penned some of my reflections and identified relevant articles on the site’s Character Blog. Two descriptions of courage seemed to best reflect the extreme circumstances these wounded warriors face daily: Euripides describes courage as “to bear unflinchingly what heaven sends,” and Nietzsche declares “what does not kill me, makes me stronger.”
Euripides’ definition captures the resoluteness and patient acceptance that I noted in the recovering warriors. Many expressed that their injuries happened for a reason. They accept their fate and believe they possess the will power to see their recoveries to a successful outcome. And Nietzsche’s description of how a person can be stronger after a defining moment like traumatic injury is reminiscent of the conscious decision made by courageous wounded warriors to make it through their recoveries successfully, in spite of all obstacles.
The amazing recoveries I have witnessed among our country’s warriors with character do not happen by chance. They are a result of deep moral strength in a warrior that results in determined behavior. Those warriors who make successful recoveries—and many do not–already possess an incredible level of self-discipline and courage. Warriors with character make a conscious choice to survive well. They also are reinforced by a good deal of professional and family support. Interestingly, many of the key caregivers involved in recovery success stories also are persons of exemplary courage and discipline. For both the warrior and the loved one who provides daily care and support, the focus is not on self-pity for the traumatic injuries that happened to them, but rather, it is on the plan to handle the injuries and recover.
Traumatic injuries can subvert the most disciplined efforts and will power, yet the warriors with character refuse to be imprisoned by them. They do not give in to the inherent unfairness of life. Rather they seize their injuries with strength of mind and body and manage to thrive in the face of adversity. They don’t plead bad luck, nor do they squander their rehabilitation but subordinated it all to their will power and make recovery their next great achievement.
From the wounded warriors, I have learned that courage involves much more than being brave in battle. Having recognized this myself I want to make the civilian population aware of the moral courage that abounds among the 47,000 wounded warriors who are returning home. In an effort to raise visibility for our wounded warriors I will publish representative success stories of warriors with character with the hope that others will join me in helping our heroes. They deserve nothing less.
David Wood, the veteran combat reporter and author of a new 10-part series for The Huffington Post titled: “Beyond the Battlefield,” examined some of the challenges and setbacks our wounded warriors face returning home from war. Please see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-wood for David’s full biography. Continue reading
In researching for the publication of my next book: Courage in America: Ten Characters with Character, I have been giving considerable thought to the virtue of courage in America today? I have been asking others and myself where courage is best taught and exhibited? Also, I am curious how courage, the greatest and most sought after human virtue, is cultivated and exercised in real life, especially when one’s courage is repeatedly tested? Continue reading
Progeny from the country’s upper class professional families seem to be attending law, business, and medical schools to become lawyers, corporate executives and doctors at about the same rate as previous generations with one difference. In the past, those of privilege pursued these professions, but they also enlisted for careers in the military. If fewer college-bound youth today are joining the military, will they develop the same physical and moral courage that marks many non-college-bound enlistees to military service such as Corporal Todd Nicely? Continue reading
In frequent talks about Politics with Principle I have often stated we acquire virtue by aiming for the “Aristotelian mean,” that is the middle between two extremes, one of excess, the other deficiency. Moral courage, for example, if excessive would be recklessness, while if deficient, would be cowardice. Yet acting bravely because an individual fears disgrace hardly fulfills the heroic image of valor. Aristotle thought shame-inspired courage was far less commendable than selfless courage. Continue reading
THANK YOU GARY AND THE KNIGHTS FOR GATHERING SO MANY FRIENDS.
In the next 15 minutes, I will discuss my book and the virtues needed to be an honest politician. Then I will profile two of the four Catholic characters and share some lessons learned. Continue reading
Many, many thanks to Flo and Paul Eckstein for gathering so many of their friends and colleagues to hear my comments about character in politics. In Politics with Principle, I chose to focus on virtue rather than vice–and to show the values successful leaders bring to public service. I want to show the next generation of political leaders simple truths … Continue reading
The Characters in Politics with Principle are PROOF-OF-PRINCIPLE that civility and good character are not impediments to success, but critical elements of personal and professional success.
The characters in my book are practical politicians who believe the perfect should not be the enemy of the good and that differences of opinion are not differences of principle. They tend to favor principles of bi-partisanship, civility and unity of purpose. Continue reading
Our journey in quest of good character today addresses pop psychology notions like… Live and let live, I’m OK—you’re OK, Go with the flow. In my opinion, these notions are leading us away from developing good character and are a slippery slope to sloth,
Author Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled believes laziness is the main obstacle to an effective life. He is aware that laziness evades taking responsibility for our actions. Avoiding laziness is a good goal but displaying moral courage under duress is a nobler goal. Continue reading