I am so in awe of those men who held on past the death of hope. And more than that, helped others to survive. The odds were nearly insurmountable: their ship had sunk, pulling hundreds of men down with it; many were covered in burning oil; hungry sharks circled the entire time picking off the weak and dying; the thirst drove many to drink the sea water; exposure; hunger; and loss of morale. Survivors of this wreck should wear a badge of courage. Maybe not a physical badge, because any decoration would not be vehicle enough to carry all the loss and anguish and sense of deprivation. But they should carry it in their heart. My hat is off to them.
My biggest heroes are those who hang on past all hope of rescue.
Frodo and Sam in the LORD OF THE RINGS, dragged themselves clear to the brink of Doom to toss the ring into the flames. In the same book, it's Eowyn facing down a Nazgul carrying the Witch King, the most fearsome of Sauron's minions ever to have sprung from the foul pits of Mordor.
It's Joe Simpson solo finishing a disastrous climb down from Siula Grande (a peak in the Peruvian Andes) with a badly broken leg. He'd fallen down a crevasse and been left for dead. By the end of his excruciating trail, he was licking snow melt from rivulets coming down the rocks. You can get his book here.
How about Forlorn Hopes, those forsaken men who were sent up the glacis of the castle to scale the walls first. They went up while the ammunition was still plentiful; the oil was boiling, the quivers full of arrows, the rock piles high. They went with the idea that they were never coming back.
Artist: Brad Wrobleski
We tend to give up on things when the going gets tough, often way too early. Because we can't stand to be uncomfortable or out of our 'zone', we throw away the right to stand with giants. We let our fears, our insecurities, our whiny laziness win the battle we should have won. I know, I've done it countless times. When I should have put that little extra effort into something, I bail on it for something more interesting.