Michael J. Kerrigan

Traumatic Injuries


Courage in America began as part of my service project as a member of The Knights of Malta, a Roman Catholic service organization. As part of my “work,” 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 provided the opportunity for me to select wounded warriors who already have, or were in the process of successfully overcoming traumatic injuries. My mission was to understand the character traits that enable some of them to turn their adversities into successful recoveries, while others did not.  Courage was clearly present in the successes.

Marine Corporal Todd Nicely**, was the first of the seven warriors I was to profile. Todd challenged me to write his story. I replied to Todd that given your serious injuries the story could be depressing. Todd replied…… Continue reading



Last week I was privileged to address the Albemarle Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution on the “The Character and Heroism of our Wounded Warriors and their Families.” The chapter of about seventy “Daughters” has raised, over the past 24 months, $150,000 to pay for three “track chairs” which they intend to award to three deserving wounded warriors.

Equally impressive was their sincere interest in our Veterans welfare as well as by the thoughtful questions raised after my brief talk. Two themes emerged during the Q&A, namely: what can be done to radically reform the Veterans Administration? The other was how do our wounded warriors develop their extraordinary character to persevere and prosper after traumatic injuries?

I will answer the VA question in another post but explained where the wounded warriors received their character education. It certainly was not in a high school… Continue reading

Thomas Jefferson proposed one should follow truth wherever it may lead. He believed that grit, resilience, and robustness are the core ethical values one needs not only to survive but also to grow in greatness. Mr. Jefferson faced overwhelming odds in giving birth to and growing a new nation, through his determination, grit and resolve, he turned adversity into victory. Many of today’s wounded warriors thrive against daunting odds, channeling Mr. Jefferson’s ethical core by declaring their own Independence, taking back their lives and pursuing happiness.

Contrary to popular belief our veterans are not “damaged goods” or are all painted with the broad brush as having a “disorder.” Our veterans are honorable, capable, warriors ready to take on the next great adventure for their country.

Most wounded warriors are willing to do whatever it takes to overcome their traumatic injuries and wounds of battle. If they have the support… Continue reading

I have been thinking about the passage in the New Testament where the centurion, a Roman officer who commands over 100 soldiers, comes to Jesus and implores Him to heal one of his servants who is suffering.

Jesus agrees to go to the man’s house and heal this servant. The centurion responds, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

I was first struck that the centurion, as a “man under authority,” readily recognizes the ultimate authority of God over earthly troops, so through the power of prayer, he tries to help his ailing employee. Christ… Continue reading

Courage in America: Warriors with Character grew out of my service project as a member of The Knights of Malta, a Roman Catholic service organization. I visited wounded warriors at military hospitals, where I spent my time with extraordinary young Americans who had volunteered for military service in response to the attack on America on September 11, 2001.

As a result of my visits to the wounded, I quickly realized that after traumatic injury, it often takes more courage to live than to die. It seemed that making a successful recovery from the traumatic war injuries borne by America’s young warriors was itself a measure of a man’s courage.

After meeting the wounded warriors, http://thecharacterbuildingproject.com/warriors/todd-nicely/todd-nicely-photos/
I wanted to know what gave these young heroes the courage to successfully rebuild their bodies, minds, souls, and lives? Could a warrior who displayed courage in battle, exhaust his courage and be defeated in… Continue reading

Readers of The Character Building Project have asked me, what exactly is the message of my forthcoming book: Courage in America: Warriors with Character? The book is mainly about the courage of the seven wounded warriors and their families successfully recovering from traumatic injuries. Their courage in the long war of rehabilitation is key as Samuel Johnson reminds us: “Courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.”

My message is that courage of the seven wounded warriors and their families is not only the key to their successful rehabilitation and ultimate reintegration to civilian life but also their courage unlocks so many other positive character traits. The success of the seven wounded warriors recovering from traumatic injuries is possible not just through advances in medical science but by practicing the virtues they learned at home… Continue reading

As part of my mission for The Character Building Project, I have been giving considerable thought to the relationship between the successful rehabilitation of Wounded Warriors and the practice of entrepreneurial excellence. That is, how does the successful rehabilitation of Wounded Warriors from traumatic injuries connect with the entrepreneurial instincts of successful start-ups?

Reid Hoffman in his recently published book, the start-up of YOU, describes resilience, resourcefulness, self-reliance and being adaptive as character traits required for successful start-ups. It is my observation these same character traits are also key ingredients to a Warrior’s successful rehabilitation from traumatic injury.

I particularly liked Hoffman’s characterization of both successful start-ups and careers of entrepreneurs as being in a state of “permanent beta,” meaning that entrepreneurship is a lifelong idea. Similarly, Wounded Warriors are in a “permanent beta” state facing a long war of a successful rehabilitation and a lifelong struggle to assimilate into… Continue reading

Upon their return from combat, wounded warriors often face the choice of suffering poorly or well when recovering from traumatic injuries. The story of J.R. Martinez, passed onto The Character Building Project by one of our faithful readers, Richard Kane, is one of a genuine capacity to suffer well. Wounded warriors “real war” often occurs after the injury by enduring painful recovery. J. R. was no exception. He is one of the rare people who just doesn’t cope with adversity but chose to turn his injuries to his advantage. Continue reading

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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.