This excerpt comes from Leadership from 30,000 Feet: Attributes of Effective Leaders as told by Five Air Force Generals, an anthology by Two Blue Aces’ contributors. To read the rest of this story and many others like it you can purchase your own copy on Amazon!
Title: The Risk of Courage
As told by: Richard “Beef” Haddad
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” —Nelson Mandela
The need for courage isn’t limited to military combat. At certain points in any person’s life, we’re all asked to show strength of mind to carry on despite danger or difficulty, or to overcome fear in the face of grave risk.
I think back to my Lebanese ancestors on my father’s side, who I’m told immigrated to the US around 1912. After their arrival at Ellis Island, they eventually found their way west, to Arizona, which wasn’t even a state until that year. One man from their village of Baskinta had settled there; the rest of their village apparently followed. To earn a living, they sold clothes from the trunks of their cars to area miners. Later, my father became a Justice of the Peace, as well as a successful entrepreneur.
Even as a child, I was impressed by the stories I was told. Despite not being able to speak English and the bias they likely faced in those early days—especially so far west—my ancestors risked severe adversity for an opportunity to better their lives for themselves and their children.
I’m a grateful recipient of the courage they showed a century ago. Because of their sacrifices, I was ultimately able to attend the Air Force Academy, be commissioned, and rise to the rank of major general.
During my time in service, I experienced hundreds of more instances of courage under fire—literally. But during two wartime deployments, I witnessed the courage of our airmen rise to the forefront, even as their lives hung in the balance.