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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Brave

            Yesterday, my brother sent me his medal that he received during Operation Desert Storm—a Bronze Star with Valor. He carefully painted the star and the V for valor pink, stuck it in an envelope, and wrote the following. 
Pam—
I figured with all you have been through, you deserve this more than I. They pinned this on me post Desert Storm (less the pink of course).
Love ya
Little Bro
          
I thought at first that all Bronze Stars come in pink—part of the “don’t ask don’t tell” program—then erased the thought. I wondered what the medal could be for as I had done nothing remarkable in an awfully long time. Finally, I made the assumption that it was for the long five year battle to keep my husband alive. Still the medal was over the top of my deeds but I was thrilled to have my brother’s honor symbolically in my hand. After a search of the places to display the gift, I hung it in my office next to the computer and then called Steve.
            “So do all Bronze Medals come in nipple pink?”
            “No, you knucklehead. I painted it pink.”
            “I thought of wearing it to work but it might be a bit much don’t you think?”
            “Wear it on the right breast.”
            “What?”
            “The one that had cancer.”
            “Oh, pink for breast cancer.”
            “You are a little slow.”
            “Then I should hang it off of the left breast.”
            “Right.”
            “Left.”
            “Correct…knucklehead.”
            Now I felt more unworthy. I don’t consider self preservation brave—not in an adult anyway. A child going through a battle with cancer is courageous as they do not understand what is in front of them or the possible outcomes.
I did. I had two real choices: 1. Move forward with the treatments or 2. Die. Before I told a soul about my diagnosis, I did think about it for a couple weeks before I made the decision. Once done, the pain and misery of the treatments were accepted for what they were—means to an end. My brother thought my cancer worthy of an award. Bless him for thinking me brave and not pragmatic.
Bravery to me is the sacrifice of one’s life and liberty for the betterment or safety of someone else. My brother saved his platoon. The roadway in front of his patrol was covered with landmines. Flat discs decorated the sandy path. It was certain death for all if their vehicle drove over the devices. My insane brother hopped out of the truck, ran in front of the vehicle and picked up the landmine. He then tossed the thing like a Frisbee away from his men and watched it explode a safe distance away. Steve ran to the next while under enemy fire and continued tossing bombs until the road was clear and his people were safe. That was an act of courageousness.
Those who dedicate themselves as a caretaker to improve the quality of life for another can also be an act of bravery. I know because it takes a conscious decision every day to put aside your own wants and needs then dedicate that time to another person. It’s a slow march instead of a mad run to save another.
Statistically, the caretakers have a high probability of their own bodies deteriorating under the stress. Most caretakers do these things with no compensation and often little emotional support. The majority fall ill after the loss of their charge.
Neither cancer or caretaking manifest the same bravery as the Frisbee flinging Green Bret, Steve G. Pimental. Honored by his gift, I thanked my brother for saving others, loving me, and painting the Bronze Star pink. To quote a great philosopher of the Twentieth Century, “I am not worthy. I am not worthy.”

Thanks Little Bro