Courage comes in many forms and may be an instinctive reaction to events as they unfold which doesn’t mean it should be ignored or discarded as nothing more than an unconscious human “fight or flight” reaction in which fight wins.
The reason I say this is because the other day I attended the funeral of a former comrade – are comrades ever former, are they not comrades forever? – who wished to be buried with his medals and laid to rest under the Union Flag which meant those of us who had served with him had to wear medals.
There is no doubt he was a brave and courageous man for which he was duly recognised but it was in conversation with one of his grandchildren that the subject of how courageous he was came up which got me thinking about what it means.
In military terms of course outstanding bravery is recognised by the state of whatever country you come from.
In the United Kingdom – and across the former British Colonies where people fought on the side of Great Britain – the highest accolade is recognised by being “Awarded” the Victoria Cross with the very simple message For Valour.
Very few in comparative terms have down the years been awarded it so the question is were the recipients more courageous than their comrades or is it that they had something different – something undefinable – in their nature that made them stand out?
Which brings me to the point of this blog which is that I have served with and alongside many courageous people whilst in the military both from these islands and from across the world.
Even – and I hope those who fought on the same side as me will agree – I also recognised the courage of those on the opposing side.
It would take a powerful argument for anyone to convince me that the Argentina fighter pilots during the Falklands War in 1982 weren’t courageous.
What I discovered wasn’t that the key to success was courage in the face of adversity displayed at a single point in time by the actions and reactions of individuals but of the tenacity of the military personnel.
Tenacity is something that requires a different kind of mindset and yes – courage – which also in itself drives and become a unifying factor that is highlighted by the loyalty military personnel have towards each other.
It is the tenacity of a tenacious opponent – enemy if you will – that also creates a respect for them.
Well in my opinion anyone who enters the military and steps up without complaint when required to do so by their political masters invariably displays tenacity and courage as those who went before them did.
It is perhaps not in the correct context but Amelia Earhart summed it up when she said
“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”