Years ago when I was in the Army I met a very interesting fella. He was 5’8. If he put on every piece of Army gear he owned on he might weigh 150lbs. He had a skinny neck, a largish head and wore Army issue RPG glasses. He worked overnights as a lab-tech at the post hospital. He was also my battle buddy at the Army’s Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC) at Ft. Campbell Ky. Being the hardcore ultra-hooah infantry soldier I was, I wasn’t all that excited about being assigned a lab-tech as a battle buddy, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
As part of the requirements of PLDC we had to have an inspection wearing our dress uniforms. The inspection would ensure that we properly knew how to make our boots and badges shiny and set our ribbons the proper distance from each other. When it came time for the inspection my buddy came by to check me and have me check him and I noticed that he was wearing a Bronze Star with a V on it. The Bronze Star is the fourth highest award that a soldier can receive. The V signified that he was awarded this for valor. I didn’t know many infantry soldiers that had Bronze Stars for valor, much less lab techs. I asked him what he did to be awarded the Bronze Star for valor. Here is what he told me.
“Before I was a lab-tech I was a combat medic. I served with an armored infantry division during the [first] Gulf War. One day we were moving through the desert when the lead Bradley was suddenly engulfed in flames. When everyone stopped we realized that the lead vehicle had driven into a minefield and hit one.”
“When we found out that the men inside were badly injured but alive me and my driver drove our armored ambulance into the minefield to help them. Our commander told us to stop because they didn’t know if this was an ambush. We didn’t stop. We just couldn’t leave them out there to die.”
“We drove up next to them and jumped from our ambulance to their Bradley. We bandaged them as best we could and called for a medevac helicopter to come and get them out. Because we were in an unmarked minefield the choppers couldn’t land so they lowered lifelines down and we pulled the injured guys out of the Bradley and onto the lifelines. After everyone was out we rejoined the rest of the company.”
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it. I asked if he was afraid when he did this. His response has always stuck with me. He said, “Yeah, I was terrified. But if we hadn’t went in those guys would have died. We couldn’t just let that happen.” My battle buddy taught me two lessons I hope I never forget.
The first is that heroes don’t always look heroic. Sometimes heroes look like Captain America and other times they look like skinny 19 year old kids who are willing to risk their lives to save others.
The second is that courage is doing the right thing despite being afraid. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. In fact I would almost go so far as to say that without fear there is no courage. It doesn’t take courage to do something that you’re not afraid of. But to do what needs to be done when you are terrified, that is courage.
This week I’ll be writing about some ways to develop courage in our lives.
For further study read Joshua 1:1-9.
Why does Joshua assume the mantle of leadership over Israel?
What promises does God give him?
What does God call on him to do?