Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Life brings sorrows and joys alike. It is what a man does with them, not what they do to him, that is the true test of his mettle.”
Mettle can be defined in numerous ways and tested at many levels during life’s unpredictable and bumpy journey. A few common definitions of mettle are courage, spirit, character, nerve, spunk, heart, bravery, resolve, grit, fortitude, vigor, boldness and valor. At the end of the day I believe it can be best summarized as to how we handle our ups and downs which in turn helps define our character.
As I reflect on my life I can clearly identify many situations where I have failed when my mettle was tested but I also know that many other times I was able to rise to the occasion. I always try to learn from my shortcomings while maintaining a serious dose of gratitude and humility. I believe that managing one’s pride and ego is some of the best medicine for a healthy and very strong character. Strong character will help each of us part way to possess real mettle. With that said there is more to it than character alone and I will touch on that at the end of this article.
Real mettle comes in all ages, races, and gender. It is clearly tested in our wonderful young men and women in uniform but also tested in all other walks of life. Ones mettle is not strictly guaranteed by physical strength or ones position in life.
Mettle is mostly based on ones very heart and soul. I would like to point out two such people that personify true mettle. Even without trying these two people positively influence those around them. I know firsthand, I’m one of those people.
A few days ago we had a very special guest visit our office. He was unassuming and gracious with a demeanor and personality that reflected a rare combination of confidence, skill and experience coupled with true gratitude and humility. I could quickly sense this man had a strong character based on his actions.
He expressed sincere interest in our operation and what he could do to help. It was clear he did not want the day to be about him but all about the veterans of Clermont County and the state of Ohio. This man is not “Superman” and I’m certainly not into hero worshiping but every once in awhile each of us cross paths with someone really special and this was one of those times. In this case, “special” means putting his country first while surviving under the most inhumane conditions imaginable.
You see this man is Colonel Tom Moe, Director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Affairs. Yes, he has high military rank and holds a big title but that is not the real story. Colonel Moe is a Vietnam Veteran and former POW. For five long years he was held prisoner at the infamous Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam.
I can only imagine the extreme and cruel level that he was tested. Amazingly, 40 plus years later and well into his 60’s he is still fighting the fight for all veterans and his country.
The next person has demonstrated real mettle for as long as I have known her. She has always put others first while being the foundation and rock for many family members and friends and never wants to be in the limelight. She lives her life with great passion, generosity and faith and with unfailing gratitude and humility. Some of us are takers and some are givers. She is clearly a giver.
She is very short in stature and is teased on a regular basis but has a heart of a giant and the depth of mettle that I cannot begin to put into words. I know she will be very embarrassed to read this but I’m very proud of her and more than happy to face the consequences. This is a person that I know better than anyone else and she is my wife of 42 years, Connie.
Our great country is blessed and even with its many warts, both past and present, the citizenry has always possessed great mettle that sets us apart from other countries.
The fiber of our country is based on the many contributions, sacrifices and faith of our people that are willing to put it all on the line for the common good. Connie and Tom are great examples that we can all learn from. In a time when it’s easy to be negative I think I will try harder to follow the lead of Tom and Connie.
Finally, as I said earlier there is more than strong character associated real mettle. In fact I don’t think we can have a strong character without the most important piece of all. I believe we must have a strong and unrelenting faith and relationship with God in order to sustain the necessary strength over the long haul. If man stands alone, with his ego and pride intact, the weight of life’s journey will prove far too heavy.
Danny D. Bare is the Executive Director of the Clermont County Veterans Commission and a Vietnam combat veteran.