Is it bravery or is it courage?

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

In a February 6, 2021 post, NBC News reported that the Wyoming Republican Party voted overwhelmingly to censure U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol.

House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Only eight of the 74-member state GOP’s central committee stood to oppose censure in a vote that didn’t proceed to a formal count. The censure document accused Cheney of voting to impeach even though the U.S. House didn’t offer Trump “formal hearing or due process.”

I shared that post on my Facebook account, and one of my colleagues back at Chesterfield (Va.) Fire and EMS, Captain Kathryn Kahlson (Ret.), left a comment to my post, “She is brave.”

Captain Kahlson’s comment reminded me of the remarks made by then Superintendent of the National Fire Academy, Dr. Denis Onieal, at a graduation ceremony one Friday morning at NFA some years ago. I’m paraphrasing here Doc, so please “cut me some slack,” eh? (That vernacular is for all my Canadian friends, eh?)


Former National Fire Academy Superintendent, Dr. Denis Onieal

That day the good Doctor said, “Bravery and courage are not the same thing. Bravery is when you’re first-in on a house fire and you arrive to find frantic mother telling you one of her kids is still inside. Your brain goes into that fight or flight mode and you do what needs to be done, sometimes at great risk to yourself, to try to save a life.”


Courage is more subtle because, in many cases, you have time to think and assess. Especially what the potential consequences might be. Said Doctor Onieal, “You’re a male firefighter on the job 5 years and recently assigned to a new firehouse. Older guys, including the CO, you’ve seen ’em: they’re ROAD, retired on active duty. No training takes place, but the CO fills out the daily log with fictitious training and sends in training reports with the same info.”

  • Do you go along to get along?
  • Do you speak to your CO about your concerns?
  • Do you go over the CO’s head if he blows you off?

“Courage is doing either of the last two,” said the Doc, “Because there are going to be consequences and things are likely to get rough. Some people might even consider it a potentially career-ending-moment. But the courageous person is he or she who makes the choice they know in their heart to be right.”

I never liked her dad, former Vice-President Dick Chaney, and honestly never quite got where Rep. Chaney was coming from, but I do now! The woman had the courage to vote for impeachment of former president Trump (For the 2nd time!) because she felt it was the right thing to do so.

So, I’m gonna say it: Representative Liz Chaney is a woman we love! 😍

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].