The words in the title to this post are the opening words to the Five For Fighting song, "Two Lights," which if you have never heard it definitely worth taking a listen too. It tells quite a story that explaining it on this blog would not do it justice hence why I am refraining from going on any further about the song itself and instead going to focus on those two words; courage and brave. So what do those words, courage and brave, really mean?
Webster's Dictionary defines brave as "having or showing courage." They then define courage as "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty."
To every person on this Earth that definition may be the same, yet how we actually view its use in our lives is what makes it so different for each one of us. For one person a courageous person may be a little kid who just goes up to a lonely person at their school and starts talking to them because they feel bad seeing them alone. To another person a courageous person may be their neighbor who goes each week to the homeless shelter and meets with the residents there to try and help them improve their lives. Each of these acts of courage are small and may be meaningless to some but to others they see these actions as something that would take a lot of umpf for them to do.
Now for me, courage and brave are synonymous as the definition basically implies, so I am not going to separate the two because essentially every action in my book that I find courageous also is brave. For me, though, nothing made the definition of these words clearer than the events of September 11, 2001 and the military operations to follow. What we all saw on that day and now almost 10 years later with Operation Enduring Freedom almost completing 10 years of active military operations in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in the midst of its 7th full year of active military operations, is what I define as brave and courageous.
Be forewarned, I am not here to preach anti-war, or pro-war, pro-Bush or anti-Bush, or pro-Obama, anti-Obama, that stuff is all nonsense and just presents a much bigger distraction on the topic at hand, courage and bravery, so if you want that stop reading and find somewhere else to read that stuff.
First off, I do believe every soldier is brave whether they have gone overseas in the heat of the hot desert sand or not, just to take that oath and go through the rigorous training is enough for me to believe that our men and women in uniform are courageous and brave. But really what I want to focus on as brave and courageous as those soldiers are, are those soldiers behind the scenes, the doctors, medics, nurses, and field hospital staff that have to see our men and women come in wounded yet remain as cool calm and collected as they were the moment before these wounded soldiers arrive. Just take a second and imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes, knowing that you are trained as best as you can be to help these men and women, yet to know that your training could never ever have prepared you for what these hospitals saw and continue to see. Soldiers constantly are arriving with injuries never seen before in combat or even in the civilian setting, such as amputations or limbs torn to shreds by the shrapnel, embedded body parts from the suicide bombers that could be potentially carrying infectious diseases like Hepatitis or HIV or burns to portions of the buttocks from these plates specially designed to rip the undersides of the Humvees to shreds. What's courageous in all of this is to hear of stories of these patients surviving and making it back to the US where they are able to receive even better care and be even more courageous themselves to fight to become part of the American life again. They survive because the staff in these field settings stay calm, and remain focused, they stay courageous and brave and keep pushing because they see their fellow soldier on their gurney fighting to stay alive. If that whole situation whether it is the injured soldier or the team treating them is not the ultimate definition of courageous then what is courageous is beyond me.
A few months back I met one of these soldiers who was on the frontlines treating those injured and let me tell you it was the most humbling experience of my life. He enlisted in the army at 18 and went through basic training. He finished his original enlistment assignment and signed up for more as he saw the opportunity for the Army to pay for his education in college as a bright spot, so he was able to go to college and then the Army was able to offer to pay for med school so he was able to continue his learning. During the September 11 attacks, it was his first day of residency and he vividly recalled his story to me on that day. He since served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan as trauma surgeon with a specialty in burns and is currently back in the US potentially heading back over to Afghanistan in the near future. This man had the unmarked scars of war on him, he was quiet and humble, disciplined like no other, and yet he was in my mind a HERO someone who along with his fellow soldiers and doctors is allowing me to live each day in freedom and peace because of his courage and bravery.
Not every action of the words courage and brave have to be as bold yet subtle as serving in the Armed Forces. For me the other people in uniform, the PD, FD and EMS, are the courageous ones here on our home soil. Yes admittedly I am an EMT and volunteer my time at a place here in my home county, so I am in some ways tooting my own horn, but in all seriousness even being one of these people I still look at all of my fellow people in the emergency services and think to myself, "These men and women enter peoples' homes not knowing if they are entering a place of danger, just going on in because they have received a call for help and want to help a person in need." When I am on the job, though, just like everyone else who is there with me, we are not thinking about the potential dangers we are just thinking about the one person, or place, that is in distress and thinking that we need to get them out and safe as soon as we can. Is it courageous or is it stupidity? Many people would like to believe that when they see their neighbor in need or distress they will step up and do the right thing, but in reality how many of these people will actually dare to do it day after day, week after week, or volunteer their time when they are able too because they like doing this.
Lastly, the other form of being courageous and brave is standing up in the face of adversity whether it be in an interpersonal situation or a social setting. To be able to go to an event where you have had a fallout with someone and stand in the same room as them and not be discouraged or let emotions get you is courage. To try and make up with someone after a fight is courage, to get back on the horse after falling is courage.
As you can see courage has so many different meanings. So what then is the real meaning of courage? Is it brave? I'm not quite sure but what I do know is that next time you see someone who you think has done something courageous give them a pat on the back and try then for you to do something courageous yourself. If we keep trying to push ourselves to get over these fears and be courageous like those doctors and soldiers overseas we may not be so bad after all.