Last week I had the privilege of listening to Brene Brown speak at West Point. She gave an incredible talk about vulnerability and courage that caused me to immediately reflect on my experiences as wounded warrior. I gained some new insights and shared that with her after the event was over.
I have continued to reflect on “Vulnerability and Courage” over the last few days and captured it in this blog post.
As she spoke my first thoughts about vulnerability and courage led me to think back 10 years to when I was wounded along with 9 of my soldiers. During the fight my soldiers and I were very vulnerable and it took courage to lead them under fire and eventually accomplish our mission. (Read more about this on this here, here, and my Alive Day WOD here) I was awarded the Bronze Star medal for Valor for my actions under fire and received the Purple Heart due to being wounded by enemy fire.
For a while I took that to mean "I was not good enough" anymore. This was shame and vulnerability and it scared me. But then I went though a transformation with help of family and friends and in Brene Brown’s words I had the "courage to be imperfect”. She mentioned "If you choose courage you choose to get your butt kicked”. Recovery was an emotional roller coaster as I struggled to get back to my old self but realizing that due to my combat injury I would never be my former self again. I was getting my “butt kicked” on a regular basis but I chose courage over being comfortable and I was determined to recover and remain a member of the Army profession.
In her talk she linked vulnerability to joy and belonging. As I leaned into vulnerability and had the courage to be imperfect (I tick when I run). I discovered I had a new sense of self-worth and belonging to my profession.
Her talk also caused me to think about the mental health issues some Veterans face when they transition out of the Army. This is not my area of expertise but here are my thoughts. There is a higher sense of purpose many service members feel when they are in combat with members of their unit. Whether they are analyzing the intelligence to find the enemy, running the logistics to support the fight, or moving into a building and engaging the enemy face to face, the sense of purpose felt in combat is hard to match after Veterans return home. The short video below from my experience in combat captures that.
There is a certain vulnerability in facing the fact that you will not be part of a team with that sense of purpose again. It takes courage to reach out and find that new team. Brene Brown referenced Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech which really connected with me and the work I do with Team Red, White, and Blue.
Connecting these Veterans with people that have been in the arena and giving them a new sense of purpose is important to their reintegration into society. There is sense of camaraderie that comes from being next to someone who has faced the same challenges in the “arena”.
I encourage Veterans and community members to put themselves out there and get into the "arena" by joining Team Red, White, and Blue in our missions to enrich the lives of America’s Veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
A big THANK YOU to Brene Brown for taking the time to come speak at West Point. Check out her TED Talk on Vulnerability here:https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability
Vulnerability is Courage and Courage Counts!