People who volunteer to serve in our military come from all walks of life — rural, urban, wealthy, poor, and from every corner of the country. Their experiences encompass all that is American, across a wide spectrum, yet they are united by at least one thing: service.
Our distant and recent history is filled with tales of service members and their heroics. Over the years, as I’ve listened to stories of service and bravery of all kinds, I’ve realized our military heroes share five qualities regardless of the nature of their courage. These qualities serve as a beacon for all that is right with our country and help me better appreciate exactly what it means to serve.
They spoke to me as I wrote about the Desert Storm heroics of my friend Capt. Steve Phillis, and it is my hope they will speak to you. They are, in no particular order, the five F’s — faith, family, fellow service members, flag and not fame.
First is faith. Many of our military heroes speak openly and often about the role their faith in God played in the events calling for courage, and sometimes sacrifice, in the face of danger. Prisoners of war, Medal of Honor recipients and combat veterans seem especially connected to their faith, perhaps because they have stared in the face of their own mortality.
If not faith in God, others talk about their faith in something — family, their fellow service members, or the knowledge that they were doing the right thing. Faith of some kind plays an important role in military heroics. “In God we trust.”
Second is family. Family and faith seem connected, and many speak of the role family played in shaping them for their moment of heroism. Some talk about values instilled in them as children. Others were thinking about their family at the time they acted. Still others wanted to honor the family name, or thought of their fellow service members as part of their family.
Whatever the reason or motivation, a strong sense of family drives many to go above and beyond the call of duty. “Family first, mission always.”
Third is fellow service members. Stress binds people together in ways that are difficult to explain, and extreme stress, like that found in combat and other life-and-death situations, creates a bond deeper than most any other.
The desire to protect fellow service members, even at the expense of one’s own life, is a common quality among our military heroes. “If not me, then who?”
Fourth is our flag. The diversity of our military force means that you will not agree with everyone. While comradery is a cornerstone of our high-performing units, it should not be mistaken for complete harmony. There are plenty of differences of opinion among military members, but they are all united behind a love of country.
This common ground often serves as a rallying cry for our military heroes, and is represented by our flag. “Proud to be an American.”
Fifth is not fame and fortune. In an era when self-promotion and the quest for fame and fortune are pervasive, fame is not the goal of our military heroes. For starters, there is way too much at stake. We’re talking about life and death.
Second, the military goes to great lengths to train the “I” mentality out of our service members and replace it with “we.” With focus on the team and mission, there is simply no place for fame and fortune. Most military heroes prefer the moniker of “quiet professional” and serve for the privilege and not the benefits. “Service above self.”
Our military heroes value the five F’s — faith, family, fellow service members, flag and not fame. These noble qualities should be respected, appreciated and indeed celebrated, for they represent the foundation of a life of true purpose. Isn’t that why we call them heroes in the first place?
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