So many gave so much. So many simply did their duty when called on. So many showed the determination to do their duty in the face of their worst fear, which is true courage. I am thankful for them all. I honor their memory.
(Sergeant) Alvin C. York, a real person, born and raised in Pall Mall, Tennessee, not just a character in a movie whose portrayal won the great Gary Cooper an Academy Award for best actor, said this.
Liberty and freedom are so very precious that you do not fight and win them once and stop. They are prizes awarded only to those peoples who fight to win them and then keep fighting eternally to hold them!
I tip my hat to Alvin C. York, a seemingly ordinary, simple, country man who did extraordinary things.
All men are capable of doing the extraordinary; extraordinary comes in the doing and having done. It never comes with mere contemplation. Sometimes the extraordinary just slips up on a fellow in the process of having to do something in the face of desperate circumstances.
As Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I submit that it is the desperation that yields the extraordinary that can overtake a man. We never know what is in another man’s heart, or how he will react in a given situation; neither does the man, himself. We don’t know what is in our own heart. We’d like to think that we can rise to the extraordinary, but perhaps we fool ourselves. We’d like to think we’d show courage in the face of danger, but we have to wait until the danger is no longer distant, but in our face as we inhale every one of its odious exhales to know for sure. In terror and fear our courage is revealed.
Many men have faced overwhelming dangers in the process of serving their country. Many faced them and succumbed…but they faced them just the same. Most of us have courage like the young man in Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage. We have romantic notions of how we would behave. How we might stand and fight as others turn tail and run…but we might find ourselves more fleet of foot than we imagined, leading the retreat instead of grudgingly being forced to rationalize the folly of not following.
Being fearless is not courage because the fearless need no courage. Being afraid and facing the fear is courage. I wish we could all be fearless, but more, I wish we all have the courage to overcome our fear. This is true courage.
“Weren’t you afraid?” the reporters asked Sergeant York.
“Yeah! I was powerful afeared,” he replied, “But them machine guns wuz a-tearin’ us up.”
Desperate circumstances give birth to the extraordinary in men. I think I’m more thankful for the extraordinary men than the desperate circumstances.