Commentary

June 14, 2013

Courage! Do you have it?

Chief Master Sgt. HAROLD WHISLER
56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron

What comes to mind when you think of the word courage?

Most of us in the military automatically think about contingency operations and the actions of our brave men and women downrange. Those outside the military might say the same thing or they may speak of courage displayed by the actions of our brave police officers or firefighters. If I took a poll, I think the majority of the responses would fall into one of those categories. So, outside of what our firefighters and police officers do, how can we display courage? To answer that question, we must first define the word. What is courage?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, courage is defined as “the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

The military holds the word courage sacred, but the public at large tends to overuse or misuse it. For example, just the other day I was watching the NBA playoffs on television and the commentators were talking about a player’s courage to come back from an injury and take on the challenges of competing at the highest levels. The word “courage,” along with “warrior,” have become commonplace in all types of sports to describe the actions and performances by professional athletes. As a member of the profession of arms, I find it difficult to relate to these comments or descriptions of professional athletes as courageous. However, I do think Airmen have the opportunity to display courage in their everyday lives.

You might be asking yourself, “What fear, danger or difficulty do I face?” Many of us are faced with difficult and challenging situations every day. We are put into situations where we have to make choices between what is right, easy or popular.

For example, driving under the influence; I don’t know too many people who go out drinking by themselves. So it’s fair to say that someone else is usually with the person or there is a group of people. At some point during the night’s activities, someone has the opportunity to put aside his or her fear of being called the “buzz kill” or “party pooper” by stopping the friend, teammate or wingman from making a life-altering mistake. Most of us wouldn’t hesitate to keep one of our teammates from driving a clearly unsafe car, but somehow we find it difficult to keep a clearly unsafe driver from driving a perfectly good car. Real friends, teammates and wingmen have the courage to put aside their fears and face the challenge.

So I ask you, are you ready to face the danger of being called a “buzz kill” to protect your fellow Airman? Are you willing to put yourself out there and make the right choices instead of the easy ones?

I think Jim Hightower has a great quote on courage.

He said, “The opposite of courage is not cowardice; it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.”

Are you going to be like a dead fish and go with the flow, or are you going to be courageous both on and off the battlefield?




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