MSEJ November 2018 - Page 10

I’ve tossed around plenty of ideas over the past few years, trying to come to some sort of understanding.

Maybe it’s a matter of natural instinct, of rising to protect your brothers and sisters because you know they are in harm’s way and you can make a difference. Maybe it’s a matter of wanting to keep true to your oath. Or maybe it’s just someone who signed up like me, thinking it was only a job, only to find that the job didn’t even come to mind when it really counted. Maybe it’s someone who saw people and suffering, and tried to help.

For soldiers and members of the military, maybe courage comes down to a combination of all of the above. But in the years since I’ve left the military, I’ve discovered that courage isn’t limited to highway accidents, battlefields, the news, or books. As it turns out, I only had to look in my own backyard to find that particular truth.

As a child, my mother was my mother—someone who cared for me, listened to my stories, answered my questions, and gave me advice. As an adult, however, I’d count my mother as one of the most courageous people I’ve ever heard about, read about, or met in person. If there’s one word to describe her, it’s “fighter.”

After battling the same deadly disease three times, she is still the cheerful, loving, inspirational person I grew up with. When others would have given up after the second round, she chose to fight cancer and survive, not only for herself but for her family.

It’s not just that she fought the disease; there are many brave people that cancer claims each and every day. Instead, it’s the fact that she fought and the fight didn’t make her bitter, it didn’t make her lose the parts of herself that make her who she is.

When I left the military, the models I looked to for courage weren’t the ones I had seen and heard about on the battlefield. Though I’d once thought maybe combat was the only proving ground for courage, the inspiration I kept closest was that of my mother. Her fight and the attitude she possesses are what helped me find the courage to forge my own path.

When I retired from the military, I reclaimed the love of history and desire to become a history teacher that initially led me to the Marine Corps. I went back to school, immersed myself in history to complete my degree, and graduated. I was proud of all I had learned and glad for the opportunity, but I was at a loss when it came to the job market.

The moment before SSgt Robert Valdez and I headed out to climb Mount Fuji in Japan.

Graduation day, UNC Wilmington.