“Courage is the key to success in life,” Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady said. “It’s the great and proven equalizer in life. We are all born equal in terms of courage. Each of us can have all the courage we want. We can’t use it up.”
Brady, one of 69 living Medal of Honor recipients, shared his understanding of courage and patriotism with members of the Hillsdale College community in honor of Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11.
Veteran’s Day, Brady said, is all about celebrating America’s nobility.
“Unlike other nobilities, their titles were not inherited,” Brady said of medal recipients. “They were earned through blood, sweat, and tears, and that is the hallowed trinity that secures our freedom. Without veterans, without our nobility, we would not be free.”
Brady rescued more than 5,000 American and Vietnamese soldiers while serving in the Republic of Vietnam commanding a UH-1H ambulance helicopter. The day he earned his Medal of Honor, he volunteered to rescue more than 100 wounded men from a site in enemy-held territory which was reported to be heavily defended and blanketed by fog.
While in Vietnam, Brady said he realized that the foundation for true courage is faith.
“Courage is reaching a breaking point but not breaking,” Brady said. “When fear knocks on your door, send faith to answer.”
Associate Professor of Management Peter Jennings served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a military officer and introduced Brady to the audience. Jennings said Brady captures the essence of Hillsdale’s defense of liberty.
“Defending liberty is a tradition of this college,” Jennings said. “It defines who we are and what we stand for as a college community. That tradition was born in the service and sacrifice of the students of the Civil War generation.”
Sacrifice and gratitude are the sources of human happiness, Brady stated.
“I would define sacrifice as love in action,” Brady said. “You take that great emotion, love, and you do something with it.”
Senior Sam Catron said she was struck by Brady’s description of sacrifice.
“The key to happiness in life is sacrifice, so you’re not just living for yourself; you’re living for others and putting your self-interests aside for the greater good,” Catron said.
In reflecting on America’s nobility, Brady said America remains exceptional because of its courage, compassion, and competitiveness.
“We’re free because of America’s courage, mostly our veterans’,” Brady said. “No country is more generous or has a compassionate care for others when there are hurricanes, tsunamis, you name it.
We are very compassionate for the care of others in the world and in America. The free exercise of competition granted by our Constitution is the basis for our prosperity.”
Brady added that courage, sacrifice, and patriotism are the foundation for America’s sovereignty, freedom, and future. America will lose its exceptional character when its citizens cease to embody these qualities, he said.
Brady noted the highest form of patriotism is providing youth with an education that prepares them to practice unselfish sacrifice.
“We all are part of teams in families, schools, nations –– when something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us,” Brady said. “That’s true of our nation and why we need to grow patriots.”
According to Brady, a patriot is someone who is willing to prove they love their country through the support and defense of it.
“Patriotism is not as emphasized in education as it once was, but a democratic
society cannot survive without patriots,” Brady said. “Another source of our declining pride in America may be the dismal state of our basic knowledge of who we are as a nation. I realize here at this great college, you focus on that.”
Catron said Brady reaffirmed her conception of patriotism.
“It takes courage to act on the duty that you are called to and to fight for what is right for our country and our society,” Catron said.
Brady said America’s youth must be educated and inspired by the wonders of America for the country to survive.
“Young people must love their country if they are to support and defend it,” Brady said. “They must believe we are loveable people and exceptional people if this is to work.”
Brady said American freedom is like a treasure chest filled with the sacrifices of veterans, heroes, and patriots. This chest of freedom is exhaustible and must continuously be replenished with sacrifices.
“That’s my message to you from our veterans, those who sacrificed their youth, so that liberty might grow old over many years, countless battlefields, and over the bodies of millions of dead,” Brady said.