Heroism Means Discomfort: Why Pansies Could Never be a Hero

shutterstock_156350636One of the things that has become obvious to me about carrying a concealed firearm is that it can be, quite honestly, uncomfortable. Sure, after some experimentation it becomes easier. But it requires adjustment in attire, it requires attention to how the weapon may be seen when moving. And while I was always a ‘gun in the glove-box’ guy, I don’t have years of experience with daily carry.

However, I’m learning.

What I have observed is that in the end, it is perhaps best that the weapon always be a little annoyance to me. That its presence is not so comfortable that it is ignored. It makes me vigilant. And it serves to remind me of the fact that those who choose to confront danger and evil have always, and will always, endure discomfort.

Mind you, I’m not trying to hold myself out as any sort of hero. But those who are heroes, they endure. Those who provide for our nation, who protect our nation, their lives are seldom things of comfort and ease.

Whether fighting the Taliban in the cold, mountain reaches of Afghanistan or struggling with drug cartels in the heat of our Southern border, whether patrolling the skies or the seas or your neighborhood, the men and women who protect us endure difficult training, long, tiresome hours and danger.

Their equipment is heavy and their bodies always weary and sore. A concealed firearm is an annoyance, but rifle, ammo, communications gear, first aid kit, water, body armor, helmet…all of it combines to wear heavily on those who need it in their daily work.

The same is true of those who fight fires or work in EMS, whose training is also long and arduous at times. Their gear weighs them down as they pour water onto conflagrations or wear oxygen to rescue others from smoke filled rooms; or their patients weigh them down as they carry them down twisting stairwells and stop along the way to do CPR and shock hearts back into rhythm.

And lest we forget, discomfort is often the daily lot of those who provide energy and material for our collective use. Coal-miners, Oil rig workers and those in the barren petroleum and natural gas fields of North Dakota or West Texas, all of them work or live in sparse conditions and perform dangerous tasks to give us what we need as a nation.

Their sacrifices are seldom considered by those who tap away at tablets in comfortable, warm apartments, disdaining those who work and risk to provide their food, fuel, electricity and products. The wind and rain, snow and heat, the many hazards endured by hard working people are worth remembering.

To a much lesser extent, I learned it in medicine. Medical school and residency were times of pressure and fatigue; sometimes exhaustion. And for those who practice at all hours, who are available for the difficult, violent, drunk, sick and dying, medicine is uncomfortable. But there is a pride in that as well.

The fact that men and women desire comfort is not some special sign of the times. We always have. But it is more accessible now. Despite the troubles of our nation, we live in an era of ease unprecedented in history. (Whether it will last is quite another question.)

The problem is that we continually forget that discomfort of some form or anothe is the price of greatness, goodness, honor and preparedness. And it is something we must pass along to the next generation of citizens, lest we have a drought of heroes.

It is all too easy to sit back and let others do the hard lifting. But whatever we do professionally, whether dangerous or not, life has moments for us to face discomfort with courage. Marriage has its difficulties and discomforts as we sacrifice our own happiness or safety for the ones we love. Certainly parenthood does.

Mothers and fathers who love truly and deeply know that there is absolutely no discomfort or danger that they would not face for the good of their sons and daughters. There is a kind of heroism there as well. Particularly in this age of extended adolescence and child-men, I would have every father pass on to his son the value of discomfort.

Whether starting your wife’s car on a cold morning or crawling under the house to fix a burst pipe; whether dealing with the stinging creatures in the house or rocking the sick child all night, those difficulties define us as men.

And it goes without saying, or should, that the discomfort attendant to learning to protect his family from the wolves of the world is a difficulty every man should embrace with the same passion with which young knights embraced their swords.

The world is full of easy things, comfortable things, battles fought and adventures taken in a virtual, electronic world, enjoyed from the comfort of our couches or beds. But to survive as a nation, as a civilization, some men and women (hopefully more than less) will have to continue to bear discomfort for the good of all.

And it’s true from the Air Force Combat Controller all the way down to the father who defends his family with his wits or fists. Without the willingness to endure difficulty and decline ease, we simply won’t, simply can’t, survive as a nation.

About the author: Edwin Leap

Edwin Leap, MD is an emergency physician and columnist. He lives in rural, Upstate South Carolina with his wife and four home-schooled children, and their various dogs and cats. He is a 1990 graduate of the West Virginia University School of Medicine and completed his residency at Methodist Hospital of Indiana in 1993. He is board certified in emergency medicine. Dr. Leap and his children are hobby blacksmiths, who love collecting swords, spears, knives and axes. His favorite firearms are the Ruger over and under shotgun his wife gave him for his birthday, the Ruger Mini-14 and Smith and Wesson .357 he received for Father's Day and his big, ugly Mosin Nagant rifle (also a gift from his darling wife). He and his family are members of College Street Baptist Church in Walhalla, SC where he is a deacon.

View all articles by Edwin Leap
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