The Courage to Act
For a long time, I conflated the virtue of courageousness with grandiose ideas of valor and devalued myself as a fireman/EMT when my comrades were doing what I believed to be courageous things on the fireground. For a while, it’s hard to come to terms with my “status” amongst my peers knowing that I had not yet made a grab, or rode as the lineman to a first due fire, or brought back a person with successful CPR. Frankly, I viewed myself and my abilities as less-than. But then, not too long ago, I made the conscious decision to shift my mentality.
Being a fireman and an EMT/medic takes a level of courage that is rather unique. Sure. It takes a belief that you won’t be phased by the degrading and volatile situation presented to you in those “oh no” moments. Is that a massive part of “The Courage to Act”? Of course – but it’s an expectation, not a badge of honor. The next step in courage is finding the willpower within you to never accept that feeling of wanting to quit. This is important for a few reasons: first, that feeling – followed-through in the wrong situation – will kill you. Second, it will lead to you understanding what you are capable of, not what others say you are. Lastly, the strength of the department is dependent on how many people have that drive.
Taking ownership over who you are, what you are capable of, and how others view your character is the most significant thing a young member can do. For me, being at Morningside forced my hand in deciding that I wasn’t going to be the sum of my past actions and that my fate was entirely in my own hands. This applies to all aspects of life. Here, you are pushed mentally and physically – and not always in ways that keep you wanting more. You will try and fail numerous things numerous times, and you won’t always want to step back into that gauntlet. People (not the leadership) may tell you that you’re not capable, not the right “brand”, not cut-out for the life of self-sacrifice. And maybe so. But at Morningside, you are given the chance to prove your courage to yourself and to others. Opportunities present themselves every day. I think that discipline takes courage. Admiral William McRaven, former commander of USSOCOM, says that discipline begins by making your bed in the morning. If you start your day with an accomplishment, the rest of the day will follow suit. I’ve taken that to heart and have tried my best to extrapolate it to life at 27.
When at Morningside, there are so many chances to do those little tasks well and better yourself (i.e. checks, cleaning the pieces/tools, housework, calls, drills, studying), meaning there are also plenty of chances to fail. And station life can become really overwhelming really fast. I know I sometimes justified sliding by with the old “we had 7 runs after midnight” excuse, telling myself it was okay to do the bare minimum at morning checks. But really, excuses aside, it’s all pretty binary: will you achieve courage, or will you quit? We challenge you to come to find out.