The third characteristic that Mr. Lewis refers to in his list is a real man leads courageously. Courage has been defined as taking action in spite of your fear. Everybody get afraid. The key to being a man is doing something even when you are afraid. In the picture above you see a group of soldiers that were in this battle on Iwo Jima. These men took control of their fear and displayed great courage. This is a great snapshot of leading courageously: another way to say that is “a real man raises the flag.” Let me tell you a little about this picture.
A long time ago on an island far away there was a major battle fought over the control of a little island called Iwo Jima. The people who were fighting were the Japanese and the Americans. The Japanese wanted it because it would keep the Americans away from invading their homeland. The American understood that if they could win the battle there they were a step closer in winning the War that had already caused a lot of people to lose their lives. After a very intense 36 day fight the American won the battle. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who said, “Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” In other words we kicked butt and took names.
Listen how **John Bradley(second from the right as you’re looking at the picture) describes the morning of the flag raising. “In the morning of Feb 23 we organize a patrol of 40 men who would work their way up the mountain. We started up the mountain immediately after the Naval barrage and plane strafing was over and we reached the top. And I might add that the reason we reached the top of Mount Suribachi without a single enemy shot being fired was because the Japs were still in their caves waiting for the bombardment to be lifted. When we reached the top we formed our battle line [the platoon moved from the column formation used to climb the mountain trail to one with the squads and fireteams on line] and we all went over the top [attacked] together and much to our surprise we didn’t find a Jap in sight. When we got there I was with the group that swung to the left and immediately the Lieutenant sent a man around to look for a piece of staff [i.e., a flagpole] that we could put the American flag on. And the Japs had some old pipes that were laying around there, they used these pipes to run water down below the mountain. And we used this Jap pipe and we attached the American flag on there and we put it up. And Joe Rosenthal happened to be there at the right time. He came up a little while after we were on top and much to his surprise the picture that is now so famous….the Flag Raising on Mount Suribachi.
I hope you never have to experience the horror of war. But if you do I pray that you will have the courage to raise the flag. Most men don’t go to physical war, but there are many wars that we wage in our personal lives, in our jobs, in our ministries, with our families and in our communities that require us to lead and to lead with courage. Raise the flag my boy, don’t let it hit the ground. Don’t give up just because something is hard. The greatest victories you will have in life will come after much hardship and dogged determination on your part. The greatest things in life require hard work and don’t come easy. I know you have what it takes to stand up and raise the flag.
*I got the details of this story and you can read the rest of the account of the battle at http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/battleiwojima.htm
**Recollections of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima by Pharmacist Mate Second Class John H. Bradley, USN, with the 5th Marine Division. Adapted from John Bradley interview in box 3 of World War II Interviews, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center.
Letters to Josh is a series of letters written from a dad to his son Josh trying to capture some of the important life lessons he wanted to pass on. These letters are a bit random in nature but each is written to address a key issue in the development of a young man. These letters are written from a very imperfect father whose love knows no bounds for his son. These letters are shared with you (the reader) only because we hope that the things we are learning and thinking through will help you and your sons.