When Character Counts

By | March 23, 2019

[March 23, 2019]  In a speech after the brutal U.S. Civil War ended, Army General William Tecumseh Sherman said “I tell you, war is Hell.”1  He was a man who knew the viciousness of war and the terrible price people pay.  But he was also adamant that when the going gets tough, character counts more than anything else.

The Iraq War began in March 2003.  Being 16 years ago almost to the day, it is hard to imagine how young we were as soldiers and how far we have come.  The thumbnail photo is this article’s header is of U.S. Army medic, Joseph Dwyer.  That day, he saved the life of a young Iraqi boy who had been injured and, half-naked, was protected by Dwyer.    

Much has been written about the importance of character in a person.  Today, we are treated with the belief that either character does not matter or that it is gone from our society.  I’m not smart enough to know the answer but I am hopeful that many people – often the most average person from all walks of life – still possess character in great quality.  When things get difficult, those are the people who step forward to do the right thing.  They act when character counts.

Years ago when I started this leadership blog, I addressed the issue of character at length.  In these pages, you can find a long series on those traits that make a person of character.  As such, I discovered that character is a complex idea but one that remains relatively stable across time and cultures.  People know when character is needed.  “How” they know, is something I cannot understand but I’m with them.

Character is not the feature of war only.  It is often found in the most trying of times and when we come under great threats of war, famine, disease, etc.  Character is possessed by anyone who has the inner strength to do good things.  It could be a new mother who stays with her sick child or with a young boy who stands his ground to prevent bullies from attacking weaker children.  It matters not our age, gender, class of birth, religion, or dare I say, upbringing. 

Character is what allows the world to progress.  And the fact that we are progressing in so many areas, tells me that there are plenty of people who have character is ample supply. 

Medic Dwyer returned home after the war but struggled from his memories of the war.  He turned to his friends who helped him cope.  He continued with the military, but his memories became too much of a powerful force.  Dwyer turned to drugs and only three years after this photo was taken, he overdosed when his demons finally caught up with him.


1.      https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/William_Tecumseh_Sherman


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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “When Character Counts

  1. Sadako Red

    The ultimate aim of human life and activity is the development of character.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Great to hear from you. I’m one of your biggest fans. Can’t wait until your next article.
      🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Aristotle, probably the greatest philosopher and thinker of all time, said a simple method can help, if you wish to learn a virtue later in life. Simply practice the virtue in every situation where that virtue is required. In other words, if you wish to develop the quality of courage, act courageously even when you feel afraid.

  3. Max Foster

    The Six Pillars of Character are the core ethical values of CHARACTER COUNTS! Articulated in the Aspen Declaration, these values were identified by a nonpartisan, nonsectarian (secular) group of youth development experts in 1992 as “core ethical values that transcend cultural, religious and socioeconomic differences. http://whatwillmatter.com/2011/11/worth-reading-in-july-1992-the-josephson-institute-of-ethics-hosted-a-summit-conference-in-aspen-colorado-a-diverse-group-of-ethicists-educators-and-youth-service-professionals-convened-to-find-w/

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Our overall character is made up of specific individual traits, or qualities. Each person has a different mix of character traits. Your character qualities, your character traits, determine how you will respond in any given situation.

  4. Maureen S. Sullivan

    One of the great lessons Jesus taught his followers is that a man’s or woman’s character is always a matter of what is in his or her heart. If a person commits adultery it is because that is what he has living in his heart, and a person’s heart is always his responsibility. This is why God tells us that we are to guard our hearts, to protect them with the greatest of care. Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

  5. Wilson Cox

    Character is the aggregate of a person’s ethical and moral qualities, and it is demonstrated through the choices we make. So a person of good character is someone who acts morally and ethically upright.

  6. Yusaf from Texas

    I believe in doing the right thing. That means others also get to see a little “character” in me.

  7. JT Patterson

    Rev Billy Graham has been put down as a crank by many liberals in our society but they are simply wrong in their assessment. Here is my favorite quote from him. Enjoy it. “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” Superb observation.

  8. Greg Heyman

    Thanks for another superb article on a topic of relevance today. I too find young individuals who lack a strong, vibrant character. When you do find them, everyone else (my age) wants to hire them or have them on their team. I’m not surprised.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      As always, that is why I come to this website and read Gen. Satterfield’s articles. Our character traits determine how we respond in every situation.

  9. Scotty Bush

    “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” A very special quote from Helen Keller.

    1. AutisticTechie

      Your character is the real you in the sense that you cannot separate what you do from who you are.

  10. Nick Lighthouse

    Great but sad story. Thanks, Gen. Satterfield for helping me stay informed. This is the kind of hero I like to hear about.

    1. Forrest Gump

      Yes! This is an example of someone doing the right thing. We all need examples. The reason is that too many people ‘say’ they are doing the right thing but are not. The reason is that they don’t know what is right and what is wrong.

    2. Bill Sanders, Jr.

      Yeah, great article. Too bad the story of army medic Dwyer turns out to have a tragic ending. Why some people go to war and do good things yet come back severely damaged is a question that needs answering.

  11. Georgie M.

    I didn’t know. I clearly remember the picture of PFC Dwyer (didn’t know his name at the time). Too bad that he committed suicide. That is, indeed, a sad sad story.

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