Choosing Courage

Choosing Courage

Inspiring Stories of What It Means to Be a Hero

Peter Collier

Artisan, Muskogee, Oklahoma, 2015, 240 pages

Book Review published on: April 14, 2017

Collier takes the reader on an educational and emotional journey, highlighting those soldiers who received America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, as well as those citizens who received the highest equivalent civilian award, the Citizen Honors Award. His book provides the reader with a historical overview of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and that overview provides the context for the inspirational stories of Medal of Honor recipients in each conflict. Citizen Honors awardees highlighted include civilians who distinguished themselves during the 9/11 attacks and the Sparks, Nevada middle school shooting, and those who worked with the Doctors Without Borders relief organization.

In each of Peter Collier’s illustrated accounts of courage, there are graphic, inspirational, horrific, and emotional revelations that will keep the reader engaged to the end. Each story provides an individual account of the background and upbringing of each amazing people, as well as, first- and second-hand accounts of their bravery under the most dangerous and trying conditions. Additional interviews of parents, spouses, children, and friends provide insight into the character of each of these heroes and heroines. Most revealing, each account provides reflections of the awardee that humble the reader and instill an appreciation of life and the people who are around us daily.

I found these reflections most interesting, as they are examples of the human dimension of leadership and motivation that is inherent in all of us. Reflections such as the Vietnam prisoner of war who said, “You survive hard times by using your mind and your imagination and by thinking about the good things you’ve done. You survive and succeed by focusing your mind on your life goals and never giving up.”

U.S. Army Lt. Vernon Baker was one of seven African Americans retroactively awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War II. When asked what he learned during his military service, he said, “Give respect before your expect it. Treat people the way they want to be treated. Remember the mission. Set the example. Keep going.”

Finally, Dr. Jordy Cox, who traveled all over the world treating patients in developing countries during times of war and natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes, commented when awarded the Citizen Honors Award, “You do what your heart tells you. That’s what you are supposed to do.”

The book is well written, well organized, and is interesting to read. It provides studies in leadership, motivation, and character building appropriate for any educational setting from middle school to university level. It is not exclusively for military readers. Moreover, it provides a civilian context to every account in the book. It is recommended for anyone seeking to find inspiration in the selfless actions of others in situations where life or death can be a consequence of doing the right thing.

Book Review written by: Col. Michael R. Martinez, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas