Bravery: chance or choice (Veterans Day)

November 11th, 2013 § 8 comments

IMG_2223Today is Veterans Day.

Each year on this special day and Memorial Day my letter to troops stationed overseas is similar. Each year I question whether I should write something new, if it’s “cheating” to say the same thing. In the end I realize that thank you never gets old, it never needs to be re-written. Thank you doesn’t have an expiration date.

November 11, 2013

Dear Servicemen/women,

My family and I want you to know that we have not forgotten you or the sacrifice you are making every day to be away from your own families and in harm’s way. It’s not much, but perhaps knowing you are in our hearts and minds will help.

Six years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was in remission for more than five years and now my cancer has metastasized to my bones and lymph nodes. It is not curable.

As I go through treatment, people called me brave. I don’t think I deserve it. “Brave” is not a word you used about someone like me. I have gotten cancer by chance and I am dealing with it, the best I can.

But soldiers? You are brave. You have a choice—you put your lives on the line after making a conscious decision to do so. You know the danger and you do it anyway. To me, that is true bravery, true heroism.

Seeing danger and making the choice to proceed anyway is precisely how I define bravery. We all find ways to deal with the fear of death. We know the uncertainty that lies ahead. We see the bravery in others before we will see it in ourselves.

What underlies bravery: chance or choice? Can both?

Are we just hesitant to see the quality in ourselves? Are we just modest? Do we just act the way we need to, to get the job done?

I think when you choose to throw your hat in the ring, that choice counts for something.
That makes you brave.
That is what makes soldiers heroes.

To all of our veterans, thank you for your continued service to our country.

Lisa Bonchek Adams


(The photo above is of a needlepoint project I started work on long ago. Instead of doing a traditional flag I decided to stitch it as a sampler. It is obviously only partly finished but I love how it ties in to this post.)


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§ 8 Responses to Bravery: chance or choice (Veterans Day)"

  • Joe Cascio says:

    In the distant past (like when I was 20), people ended up in the military not by choice, but by being drafted. But I don’t think of any of my contemporaries who ended up in Vietnam nor previous generations of draftees, like my father in WWII as being any less courageous than their voluntary counterparts and for the same reason I think of you as courageous. Some choose to fight and some have courage thrust upon them.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Well said. I agree, they had a choice but chose to put their life on the line. I would not have done so, if given the opportunity to say NO to cancer.

  • Nancy Hart says:

    Wonderful letter and beautiful needlepoint flag!!

  • Jan Hasak says:

    This is beautiful, Lisa. And so is your needlepoint. You express the sentiments of so many of us cancer patients who have been called brave. People mean well when they call us that, hoping to make us feel better. But we merely do what we are told in an effort to extend our lives. In contrast, our soldiers deliberately put themselves in positions of danger that may shorten their lives. They truly are the brave, the courageous, the bold. Let us never forget. Write on! xo

  • Kim C says:

    For me, bravery is how we choose to proceed through the danger – whether we face it through choice or chance. You are indeed brave, Lisa. Brave to move forward through your treatments. Brave to live every single day, in spite of the uncertainty. Brave to teach and inspire others along the way. Thank you!

    Thank you to all the peace keepers in the world.

  • Christine Tanner says:

    Beutiful letter lisa what more can one say but, Thankyou x

  • I have both a WWII survivor and a breast cancer survivor in my family. My Dad served as a fighter pilot in Germany and will be 93 soon so he is most definitely the last of a dying breed. He volunteered to be in the service so that he could go to college on the GI Bill and did his country proud. I’ve made sure he will always be remembered as the brave fighter he was by getting his name included in the WWII Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, DC and I urge all other family members of WWII Vets do the same; here is my father’s listing:

    While I understand your sentiment I can’t help but think my daughter was also brave. Only 29, she found a lump after a workout when her pectoral muscles were aching. Yes, we were shocked that someone her age would have breast cancer but she dove into this fight with determination and aplomb. Determined to keep a good spirit and be helpful to others, she is now entering her last week of radiation and radiates a new strength she did not have before. Did she volunteer for this fight for her life? Heck no…but I do think I saw elements of bravery in how she handled it; manifested in a determination to help others and not focus solely on herself.

    I see the same in you so while you may not think so I think others do think of you as brave; it takes uncommon strength to share your story and situation so generously with others.

  • Beautiful letter, Lisa. You are truly special in your ability to appreciate the good in life and the good in others when you have been dealt such a difficult hand. But, here is the thing. I don’t think bravery is defined by the events of our lives (chosen or not), but instead by our response to them. You are not brave because your body has cancer. You are brave because of your response. Stay brave. You are most inspiring.

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