Michael J. Kerrigan


Courage in America:  Warriors with Character is the second book in a series being written by Michael J. Kerrigan of The Character Building Project is published by Wheatmark®.

Courage in America: Warriors with Character CoverCourage in America began as part of my service project as a member of The Knights of Malta, a Roman Catholic service organization. I visited wounded warriors at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. The results of those and subsequent visits to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland focused my attention on extraordinary young Americans who volunteered for military service in response to the attack on America on September 11, 2001. By selecting wounded warriors who already have, or are in the process of successfully overcoming traumatic injuries, I tried to understand the virtues that enable some of them to turn their adversities into successful recoveries, while others cannot.  Courage was clearly present in the successes.

With Courage in America, I set out to highlight the virtue of courage: how it is taught, practiced, and sustained among the young generation of Americans in the military. By volunteering to help the wounded among them, I met many who are successfully recovering from traumatic injury. I discovered that their stories offer key insights. Meeting the warriors and their families left me admiring their collective courage and worrying that their supply might be expendable.

Courage in America will ask and try to answer some important questions: How did the successful warriors find meaning in their years of suffering? Why do some injured warriors become victims, and other rare warriors achieve the greatest heights of rehabilitation, growth, and contribution? Might the stories and example of these warriors bring helpful insights not only to future wounded warriors, but to their young civilian contemporaries as well?

Meeting with America’s wounded military taught me that the “real war” for many is often fought back here at home when they return to recover from traumatic injuries. In witnessing their rehabilitation, I recognized the importance of the virtues of courage and patient endurance. The successful patients learn to live according to a “code of wounded warriors,” such that the duties of rehabilitation are discharged with the same determination and focus once required for battle. They respond to their physical adversities with the same militant spirit that made them an effective American warrior. Success does not come easily in war or in rehabilitation. It is achieved by an assiduous application of duty, by mentally and physically struggling through daily therapy challenges. The wounded warriors exhibit extraordinary habits of mind, body and soul that enable them to eventually make great strides forward toward their ultimate recovery.

Courage is a virtue that is not confined to the indomitable wounded warriors; it also flourishes within the caregivers as well. And a warrior spirit within caregivers is equally important for a patient’s successful recovery. From the corpsmen, medics, and other military medical staff who are first responders in combat, to the therapists who rehabilitate warriors at various military hospitals nationwide, to the most important caregivers of all—the moms, dads, and spouses who nearby day after day—there is virtue evident everywhere in the chain of caring and giving.  Together with the warrior, they all fight the long war of rehabilitation.

By sharing the stories of how these warriors and their caregivers battle on against traumatic injuries, I hope to inspire newly wounded warriors to reach for the fullest recovery possible for them. I also want to educate civilians about our country’s young military-hero families, so others will join me in supporting warrior efforts to re-enter civilian life. By getting to know the wounded warrior community, all benefit by learning of their virtues of honor, humility, perseverance, selflessness, patience, resilience and endurance.

It is an honor for us all to know the wounded warriors who are recovering from traumatic injuries. They have achieved greatness of character by harnessing their adversity and overcoming their injuries. Some remain “works in progress,” but all are climbing in a positive way toward everyday greatness.

After reading of the stories in Courage in America, I hope many will find new ways to support the nation’s community of wounded warriors, because our military heroes and their families deserve our help and should not be forgotten.

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Courage in America has been aurally transcribed for the visually impaired, thanks to Volunteers of Vacaville, California. Tel: 704.448.6841 ext 2044.