MSEJ November 2018 - Page 9

Someone once told me that there is only one form of courage—either you have it or you don’t, and the only way you can show it or know you have it is if you experience combat. At the time, I didn’t know if that person was right or wrong. I didn’t know enough to fight their argument, and wasn’t sure I’d come out on the right side even if I did.

Today, I feel confident saying I know otherwise.

I have always wanted to know what makes people do courageous things, like saving a kid from a speeding car or rushing a machine gun nest when there are bullets flying everywhere. I’ve deployed overseas three times, and for many years I believed that I didn’t have the same type or amount of courage as my brothers and sisters in the armed forces.

I joined the Marine Corps in 1996, before the events of 9/11 and the changes that date wrought in our world. I joined because I wanted to go to college, to see the world, to leave my hometown. I saw the Marines as a job rather than a life commitment, and honestly believed that was true until that fateful day in New York.

From that moment onward, specifically from 2001-2008, I believed that the people joining during the war had a lot more courage than I did or ever could. They were committing their lives during a time of war;

they didn’t have any illusions that they’d be serving in a safe environment. My thoughts on courage didn’t—or maybe, couldn’t—have changed until I deployed, and until I spent more time with my family after leaving the military.

In my quest to understand courage, I’ve looked at countless stories and definitions. According to the dictionary, courage boils down to the ability to do something when it frightens you and to exhibit strength in the face of pain and grief. I have read numerous Medal of Honor citations that show this ability, though those citations still lack something—the reason these recipients were able to show courage in the first place.

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Sparks of Courage

By Adam S. Cole, 2018 CASY Writing Intern