Success demands courage. If you are going to get to where you want to be, you are going to have to be courageous when you least feel prepared to find it inside yourself.
The chaos of the battle faded briefly from his mind. Replaced with raw panic and fear.
William D. Hawkins bowed his head to pray from the edge of the boat he was standing on.
Heading to the island of Betio, in the Tarawa atoll, William and his men were at Betio to get the island back from the Japanese after they stole it from missionaries.
The warship fired round upon round of ammo into the water in the hopes to deter Japanese submarines from attacking their fleet. William and his platoon waited for the signal before jumping into the boats resting in the shallow water.
They were called amphibious tanks, the first of their kind to ever be used in battle. Then they headed to the shore.
As they approached the shore, aerial bombs were dropped by the U.S. on the Betio beachhead by the thousands.
Smoke was everywhere. Fire exploded on the sandy shore.
The soldiers jumped out of the boats and swam the last few meters to the shore as the Japanese peppered the water with gunfire.
In the crossfire, William took a direct rocket hit to the shoulder — but he kept going.
He wasn’t willing to back down now. Even with 4,000 Japanese soldiers firing machine guns directly at him.
The island was full of dangerous machine gun bunkers — dug some 20 feet into the ground. On every hilltop, the Japanese were in trenches raining down gunfire on the oncoming U.S. Marines.
It was death every few steps as William and his men destroyed pillboxes with a flamethrower. He was in the middle of the bloodiest battle of World War II.
Over and over again, Japanese soldiers were taken out and the Marines pushed their way further into the island.
The trees looked like they were in the middle of a tropical storm, blown sideways from the devastation of the gunfire.
The smoke of the gunfire settled on the island like a dense fog. The only two smells that existed were of gunpowder and death.
William was the first to set foot on the island.
It took enormous courage. Most of his comrades would die.
Those who did survive would suffer the scars that come with mangled bodies — having experienced the torture of under depravity.
It’s easy to recognize courage on the battlefield.
It’s that first step. It’s that willingness to move forward in spite of overwhelming harm.
But courage comes alive in different ways.
Perhaps it takes even more courage to survive in today’s world, where combat most often takes place in your mind rather than in smoke-filled trenches.
- It takes courage to try.
- It takes courage to believe.
- It takes courage to step outside the shadows of your past failure.
And all of that happens between your ears.
It’s a struggle that is as dangerous as any physical war.
Your battle is to control the thoughts that take up ownership in your mind.
If you don’t have the courage to fight back against the negativity and fear that seek to overwhelm you, your chances at success are done. It’s over. You’ll never get to where you want to be.
It doesn’t matter how smart you may be, how much money you have, or what you have accomplished in your past — to be successful you have to find the courage to battle bad thoughts and to be uncomfortable when getting what you want doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.
You’ve been there before. Maybe recently.
Where you’ve tried so many times already that it seems insane to do it one more time. When it just feels like you should pack it in and go back to a life of normal expectations.
That you should just be reasonable and stop trying to change what seems impossible.
You lie awake at night wondering when it’s going to be your chance to win. Wondering why you always seem to end up in these situations.
That’s your battlefield. That moment where it seems like all is lost again — that’s your foxhole. That’s when you know it’s time to fight.
And even though you don’t feel like success is possible, just know that your courage to try, to believe, to invest, to get back up — that courage is what makes the difference between winning and losing.
At the beginning of the second day on Betio William took a bullet to the shoulder. But he refused to leave the fight. As long as he could shoot, he would. And the fight raged on.
Over the next day, William single-handedly took out more than six Japanese machine gun nests, killing hundreds of Japanese warriors who sought to stop him.
But it came at a high cost. A few hours after his second wound, William was shot a final time. In his other shoulder.
He died with his back to a tree, pistol in hand, encircled by enemy soldiers he had taken with him.
Over 1,000 Marines lost their lives in that short battle. Among them was William Hawkins.
In recognition of his heroic behavior, the airstrip on Betio Island was named Hawkins Field. The bar at The Basic School, where Marine Corp officers are trained, is called The Hawkins Room.
Along with his men, William was awarded multiple Presidential Unit Citations.
Here’s the truth about being courageous — no one really wants to be.
- No one feels like doing more when they’re already exhausted.
- No one feels like trying when they’ve already failed.
- No one wants to die just to set an example.
You’re no different. It going to take courage.
Months later at the White House, President Franklin Roosevelt presented William’s mom with the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest commendation awarded to the military, telling those gathered that: “To say that his conduct was worthy of the highest traditions of the Marine Corps is like saying the Empire State Building is moderately high.”
Like Williams, you’re a warrior. Act like it.