One day you’re a hero, the next you’re a bum, so what the hell.
Babe Ruth

Nirbheetha Vegavath (fearless and fast).
— Motto of the Sri Lanka Sinha Rifle Regiment

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further: it may be
Beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow,
Across that angry or that glimmering sea,
White on a throne or guarded in a cave
There lives a prophet who can understand
Why men were born: but surely we are brave,
Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.

— from Epilogue of James Elroy Flecker’s The Golden Journey to Samarkand

…But for you it’s always got to be hell and back. Any fool can get there; it takes one of the Master’s mob to get home again.
Terrence Strong. Whisper Who Dares

The Way meaning the Tao… Thinking of Heraclitus, he thought too of Sun Tzu, The Art of War; Yagyu Munenori, the synthesis of the sword and the mind, ichiri, the One Principle, the mindset one must use when when one cannot retreat in the face of an attack; the synthesis of the universe: the Tao.
Eric van Lustbader. Jian

I know, and you know, that we will never let the regiment down.
Lt Col Iain Johnstone, commander of the 1st Royal Scots before the Allied invasion of Iraq and Kuwait during the First Gulf War

Send us in to kick some, or send us home to get some!
Sign at a US Marine base prior to Operation Desert Storm

If I advance, follow me. If I delay, hurry me. If I retreat, kill me.
— Motto of the Kaibile Battalion of the Guatamalan Army

Ils ne passeront pas! (They shall not pass!)
Henri-Philippe Petain, at the defence of Verdun in 1916

Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant. (Hail, Caesar, those about to die salute you.)
Salute of the Roman gladiators to the emperor on entering the arena

Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry.
Oliver Cromwell

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself
A bird will fallen frozen dead from a bough
Without ever having felt sorry for itself.

DH Lawrence. Self-Pity

The sand of the desert is sodden red,
Red with the wreck of a square that broke;
The Gatling’s jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England’s far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks,
“Play up! play up! and play the game!”

— from Sir Henry Newbolt’s Vitae Lampada

Go forth fearlessly
Stand up for what is right
Don’t let your convictions be dulled by your might
And may you be led to the end by the eternal light.

Col Sunil Peiris, founding commander of the SL Army Commando Regiment

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flies by day.
Psalm 91, Verse 5, of the Bible

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for I am the meanest motherfucker in the valley.
— Unofficial motto of the US Special Forces

They believed in something, and they were willing to die for it, for any smallest detail that would help to achieve it. What else is bravery?
John Masters. The Road Past Mandalay

During that company attack, when most of his comrades lay dead or wounded in the paddy, one Japanese continued the charge alone. He arrived finally at a Cameronian machine-gun, which cut him to pieces. His bayonet was not fixed and his rifle was not loaded.

Distrust yourself and sleep before you fight
‘Tis not too late tomorrow to be brave.

John Armstrong. The Art of Preserving Health

Had we lived, I would have had a tale to tell of the endurance, hardihood and courage of my companions which would have stirred the hearts… These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale.
— from the notes found on the body of Capt Robert Falcon Scott, after the ill-fated expedition to reach the South Pole in 1912

C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre. (It is magnificent, but it is not war.)
Marshal Pierre Bosque, on the Charge of the Light Brigade

Kokoro. The heart of things. To peer into this and survive is life’s only heroic act.
Eric Van Lustbader. Black Heart

What about the men at Thermopylae? Were they free?… The Three-Hundred were freer than free: they were heroic. And heroes are never free. Only the brave can’t afford to think of freedom, for only the brave accept duties willingly.
Thomas Doulis. Path for Our Valour

Enterprises of great pith and moment rely for their execution on men of courage.
Winston Churchill

Le garde meurt, mais ne se rend pas (the Guards die but do not surrender).
— Attributed to Gen Pierre Cambronne, commander of the French Imperial Guard, when called on to surrender at Waterloo.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The Charge of the Light Brigade

The combat deepens. On, ye brave,
Who rush to glory, or the grave!

— from Thomas Campbell’s Hohenlinden

We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning,
By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light
And the lanthorn dimly burning.

No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
Not in sheet or in shroud we wound him;
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest
With his martial cloak around him.

Slowly and sadly we laid him down,
From the field of his fame fresh and gory;
We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone,
But we left him alone with his glory.

Charles Wolfe. The Burial of Sir John Moore

I was appalled. This was not calculated combat; it was a free-for-all in the jungle. Amateur stuff. Heroics. I did not want any part of heroics., because I was not ready to die.
James Hudson. The Five Fingers

Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.
F Scott Fitzgerald

This is what I wanted, to find in a commonplace world a chance to live heroically. Having known nothing but security, comfort and peace, I hungered for danger, challenges and violence.
Philip Caputo. A Rumor of War

…But if he’d used one of his dodges, if I’d used one, even if everyone had guessed I’d used one, it wouldn’t have mattered much. No one’ll be able to distinguish the heroes from the cowards when it’s all over, or the ones who dodged from the ones who didn’t. And when I died at a ripe old age, surrounded by sorrowing grandchildren, they’d have remembered me with respect, knowing nothing of what I’d done on the eve of the greatest battle the world’s ever seen. They’d never have known I wasn’t man enough to face it, and the grass would grow just as green over my grave as it will if I’m killed.
John Harris. Covenant With Death

…The prince, wishing to know what will is, asks one sage, who replies: “You see that young banana tree? Take your sword and in one impulse of your will, sever it!” The tree falls, cut clean through. “Now hold out your arm. And if your will is still pure, sever it likewise.”
Pierre Leulliette. Saint Michele et le Dragon

“You know,” Walden said, “tomorrow, when we’re going in on that helicopter, nobody in the world will see us except a couple of pilots, and a couple of door gunners. We’ll be hanging up there in the sky between heaven and the jungle and nobody will see us. I thought about that sometimes on night jumps at Bragg. It was, you know, like the finest moment, jumping out of the door into total darkness, like being born. And nobody would see you, not the people that were important. But I always knew that someone was watching it, someone was recording it.”
David Maurer. The Dying Place

Close your hearts to pity! Act brutally! Eighty million people must obtain what is their right.
Adolf Hitler

The last time he’d been home, he’d asked his father why it seemed he’d lost his old friends.

His father gently explained that he hadn’t lost them at all. He’d just done something that they now wished they’d tried. They resented him a little because he’d had an adventure and, in fact, was still having one while they were feeling trapped in lives that to them had lost their color and become black and white. They knew that it was too late for them now and they had stopped going out because it hurt to them to think about it, to go home down the same street to the same back door of the same house that once had seemed to be the dream beyond which there could be nothing grander. They’d lay awake nights and wonder what it would have been like for them if… They’d get up the next morning and leave the same house through the same back door and drive down the same streets towards the same job where today’s problems were indistinguishable from yesterday’s or last week’s or last year’s.
Gerry Carroll. Ghostrider One

You never know what you can get away with unless you try.
Gen Colin Powell

“Most kind, most sweet, most clement Virgin,” he prayed.

But he could not keep from thinking of the next day finally. So he thought: I will do exactly as the Ingles says and as he says to do it. But let me be close to him, O Lord, and may his instructions be exact for I do not think that I could control myself under the bombardment of the planes. Help me, O Lord, tomorrow to comport myself as a man should in his last hours. Help me, O Lord, to understand clearly the needs of the day. Help me, O Lord, to dominate the movement of my legs that I should not run when the bad moment comes. Help me, O Lord, to comport myself as a man tomorrow in the day of battle. Since I have asked this aid of Thee, please grant it, knowing I would not ask it if I were not serious, and I will ask nothing more of Thee again.
Ernest Hemmingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls

The Spartans do not ask how many the enemy number, but where they are.
Agis of Sparta

A man without determination is but an untempered sword
Chinese proverb

It is not the point of the questing bayonet that breaks the line, but the cold glitter in the attacker’s eye.
Gen George Patton

We must not fall behind them, but must resist our enemies in any way and in every way…
Pericles, quoted in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War

We shall fight them on the seas and oceans. We shall fight them with growing strength in the air. We shall fight them on the beaches. We shall fight them on our landing grounds. We shall never surrender!
Winston Churchill

Courage consists, not in blindly overlooking danger, but in seeing it and conquering it.
John Paul Richter

It is in great dangers that we see great courage.
John Francois Regnard

The truest courage is always mixed with circumspection; this being the quality which distinguishes the courage of the wise from the hardiness of the rash and foolish.
William Jones

Courage is, on all hands, considered as an essential of character.
James Froude

There is a contemptibly quiet path for all those who are afraid of the blows and clamor of opposing forces. There is no honorable fighting for a man who is not ready to forget that he has a head to be battered and a name to be bespattered. Truth wants no champion who is not as ready to be struck as to strike for her.
Josiah Gilbert Holland (aka Timothy Titcomb)

Courage is poorly housed that dwells in numbers; the lion never counts the herd that are about him, nor weighs how many flocks he has to scatter.
Aaron Hill

Physical courage,which despises all danger, will make a man brave in one way; and moral courage, which despises all opinions, will make a man brave in another. The former will seem most necessary for the camp; the latter for the council; but to constitute a great man, both are necessary.
Caleb Colton

Courage in danger, is half the battle.
Titus Plautus

A really tough man knows he is mortal, knows the dangers involved to the tenth decimal place, and goes ahead. He is careful, committed, and absolutely ruthless.
Stephen Coonts. Al-Jihad

You cannot choose your battlefield,
God does that for you;
But you can plant a standard
Where a standard never flew.

Stephen Crane. The Colours

When first under fire an’ you’re wishful to duck,
Don’t look nor take ‘eed at the man that is struck,
Be thankful you’re livin’, and trust to your luck
And march to your front like a soldier.

If your officer’s dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.

— from Rudyard Kipling’s The Young British Soldier

One cannot answer for his courage when he has never been in danger.
Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld. Maximes

It takes a special kind of courage to be alone: to be alone with your thoughts; to be alone with your fears; to be alone with your doubts. This courage is not the superficial brand stimulated by the flow of adrenalin. Neither is it the courage that comes from the fear that others may think one a coward.
Charles Henderson. Marine Sniper

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

If on a Spring night I went by,
And God were standing there,
What is the prayer that I would say
To Him? This is the prayer;
O Lord of courage grave,
O master of this night of Spring!
Make firm in me a heart too brave
To ask Thee anything.

Moods, Songs, and Doggerels, taken from the Library of the University of California, author unknown

Courage is but a word, and yet, of words,
The only sentinel of permanence ;
The ruddy watch-fire of cold winter days.
We steal its comfort, lift our weary swords.
And on. For faith — without it — has no sense ;
And love to wind of doubt and tremor sways ;
And life for ever quaking marsh must tread.


“…There’s no such thing as heroes… You find yourself in a bad deal you do your best to get out of it… I did what everybody else would do — or try to, anyway. And I was lucky. Turk did more than any of us — and he’s dead. There’s no such thing as heroes at all: not the way they mean, with their citations and medals and all that crap… You ask any guy who’s been on the line if there’s heroes. He’ll laugh like a bastard, he’ll tell you just what I’m telling you: you do all you can and you hang on and pray to God it won’t get too bad… And even then you need luck…”
Anton Myrer. The Big War

Any danger spot is tenable if men — brave men — will make it so.
John F Kennedy

Many brave men lived before Agamemnon: but they are all bound, unknown and unwept, in the long night, for there was no one to sing of them in sacred verse.
Horace. Odes

“I’d rather be brave,” he suddenly told me. “I’d rather be brave than almost anything…”
Tim O’Brien. If I Die in a Combat Zone

Courage is nothing to laugh at, not if it is proper courage and exercised by men who know what they do is proper. Proper courage is wise courage. It’s acting wisely when fear would have a man act otherwise. It is the endurance of the soul in spite of fear — wisely.

Not one was more than twenty-five. Are there not always young men like them, in all the armies of the world, who die in place of others — bravely, say some, stupidly say others?
Pierre Leulliette. Saint Michel et le dragon

We got a commitment to action. And once you make the commitment that what you have chosen is right and purposeful, you should do it the best you can. That, cowboy, is what it’s all about. And if I’m wrong, then I’ve wasted a lifetime being wrong. But I figured a long time ago there ain’t no right or wrong, just different viewpoints… The commitment to yourself is to be proud of yourself. And, cowboy, I damn well am that. That’s all I know.
Giles Tippette. The Mercenaries

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