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OPINION: It only takes one step

by Robert Box | May 26, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

I was recently watching Chris Wallace on the Sunday news and was impressed with his "person of the week" at the end of his newscast. Admiral William H. McRaven is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of "Make Your Bed" and "Sea Stories: My Life in Special Forces." In his 37 years as a Navy SEAL, he commanded at every level and retired as a four-star admiral as commander of all U.S. Special Operation Forces. What caught my eye though was the title of his new book, "The Hero Code," which has just been published.

Admiral McRaven traveled the world as an active SEAL and saw all of its good and bad people and situations. His new book is his tribute to the real, everyday heroes he's met over the years, from battlefields to hospitals to college campuses, to men and women everywhere who are doing their part to save the world. In doing so, McRaven lists ten HERO CODES and illustrates them with people from all walks of life. They are amazing and I highly recommend the reading of this book for everyone, especially our veterans. As Admiral McRaven points out, "Being a hero is not being a superman; it is being yourself and making a difference."

Beginning with Anne Frank's famous quotation, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." McRaven lists ten codes for people to follow: Courage, Humility, Sacrifice, Integrity, Compassion, Perseverance, Duty, Hope, Humor, and Forgiveness. Each of these is preceded by an appropriate quotation. Winston Churchill once said, "Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all the rest." I can't illustrate all of these codes in this short article, but let me at least deal with courage.

The Hero Code for courage is: "I will always strive to be courageous, to take one step forward as I confront my fears." Do you remember the battle for Texas independence at the Alamo? At the time when certain defeat was imminent and virtually guaranteed death, Colonel William B. Travis pulled out his saber and drew a line in the sand in front of his men. He explained the situation to the men, suggested that any person wishing to abandon the fort could do so, and then told the men that anyone who wanted to stay and fight could step forward across the line. It was just "one step" over the line in the sand. People may argue the value of this battle, but no one can deny the courage of the men who stayed and fought.

McRaven says, "We all have our lines in the sand, those fears that keep us from being courageous. But all you have to do to overcome those fears, those obstacles, those challenges in your life, is to take one step forward. Just one! Take one step forward and get on the helicopter. Take one step forward and talk to a doctor. Take one step forward and fight injustice. Take one step forward and challenge the bullies. Take one step forward and face your inner demons. And if you take that one step forward, you will find the courage you seek, the courage necessary to overcome your fears and be the hero you long to be."

McRaven further points out that courage is not just the sole purview of warriors. He points to the acts of heroism from doctors caring for the infirmed, police patrolling the streets, firefighters rushing into collapsing buildings, parents protecting their children, and countless other people who have found the courage to overcome their fears and become courageous.

A couple of years ago, our granddaughter, a tall, athletic girl with a heart of gold and a brain to match, was standing in the middle of a hallway in her high school when some girls began to bully one of the newer girls. Overcoming her fears, she immediately interceded and declared that we just don't do that in our school. It was just one step, but it stopped the bullying; and, as I remember, she was called along with some others before the school principal to explain her actions. Of course, she was vindicated, and, of course, we are very proud of her. It was just "one step," albeit a very scary one, but she was courageous.

How many times do we find ourselves in a similar situation? Do we have the courage to stand up for what is right, to intercede on behalf of people being treated badly, to step over the line and go the second mile to help make our community a better place in which to live? As Admiral McRaven says, "It only takes one step."


Robert Box has been a law enforcement chaplain for 27 years. He is a Master Level chaplain with the International Conference of Police Chaplains and is an endorsed chaplain with the American Baptist Churches, USA. He also currently serves as a Deputy Sheriff chaplain for the Benton County Sheriff's Office. The opinions expressed in the article are the opinion of the author and not the agencies he serves.


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