July 30, 2015

Book Review: Choosing Courage by Peter Collier

Title: Choosing Courage
Author: Peter Collier

What turns an ordinary person into a hero? What happens in the blink of an eye on a battlefield (or in any dangerous situation) to bring out true courage? The men and women who have been recognized by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation know the answers to these questions deep in their hearts. We learn of Jack Lucas, a 13-year-old who kept his real age a secret so he could fight in World War II—where he deliberately fell on a grenade to save his buddies during the Iwo Jima invasion—and Clint Romesha, who almost single-handedly prevented a remote U.S. Army outpost in Afghanistan from being taken over by the Taliban. Also included are civilians who have been honored by the Foundation for outstanding acts of bravery in crisis situations: for example, Jencie Fagan, a gym teacher who put herself in danger to disarm a troubled eighth grader before he could turn a gun on his classmates. Adding depth and context are illuminating sidebars throughout and essays on the combat experience and its aftermath: topics such as overcoming fear; a mother mourning her son; and “surviving hell” as a prisoner of war. Back matter includes a glossary and an index.

I was contacted to see if I wanted to review this book.  I'm not usually one to jump at reading nonfiction, but this one caught my attention.  

The book is divided into sections mostly by different wars - WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  But the last section is "Heroism in Civilian Life".  I liked that last part because it showed how you can be courageous in your life not just if you are a soldier.  

I learned a lot by reading this book.  The thing I learned that hit me the most was how much we didn't honor minorities very well during WWI and WWII.  Many of the stories were about minorities that showed amazing acts of courage, but weren't recognized for it because of their skin color or religion.  It wasn't until later that they received recognition.  It does make me wonder how much that happens now.

My favorite story was about a man named Desmond Doss.  He was drafted but was a conscientious objector.  Instead of carrying a weapon he became a medic.  He was bullied and ridiculed by the men in his unit even though he put himself into harms way just like them.  Slowly his unit saw how much he risked for them.  When he was hurt he lost the Bible he carried with him.  His unit went and searched the battle field for it so they could get it back to him.  That made me tear up! I liked this story because it showed courage in so many ways.  His courage to do what he believed in.  But also the courage of the men in his unit to admit they were wrong and change their beliefs.  Wonderful story.

This is a book I'll be sharing with the teachers in my school.  We talk about courage a lot, and this will be a great resource to use to share stories from.  I'm glad I was introduced to it. 

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