Winston Churchill famously said, “We sleep at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.”
I know one such man; he is a hero to me. He should be to everyone who lives in our community. He, and many others like him, do what many of us would never, and have never, considered. He risked his life for you, for me, and for people he has never met — all to keep this country safe and to protect our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It occurred to me, one morning, as I watched Josh Cope roll his wheelchair into 6 Levels, that I had no real concept of what giving your life for others might actually mean. We all have friends and family members for whom we would give our lives. But here’s the real question: How many of us would do it for someone we’ve never laid eyes on?
Because that is, essentially, what soldiers do each and every day. They don’t know us. They don’t know that I yelled at the old guy who just cut me off in traffic. They don’t know that you impatiently cut in line to avoid the women with the basket full of groceries or rolled your eyes at the bag boy who just wanted to talk. They don’t know if we’re productive citizens or destructive citizens. These soldiers don’t ask for our credentials before they protect us; they simply do it. They don’t ask or care if we are nice, kind, considerate or otherwise. They have a job: It is to protect American citizens, whatever the cost.
While serving as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, Cope was awarded with an Arcom for pulling a fellow soldier out of a burning Humvee while deployed in Iraq. It was during his second deployment in Baghdad that Sgt. Cope lost both legs and suffered serious injuries to his hands when the Humvee he was riding in crossed over an armor-piercing IED. Two fellow soldiers in the vehicle with Josh lost their lives that day. So, it is here, as Josh rolls through my doors, that I feel humbled.
Having this kind of respect for the man, it might seem odd that the first thing I do is place Josh in a choke hold. But that’s what he’s here for. This man, who has lost both legs to war, has arrived at my facility to challenge me. I can think of nothing better. If there was a moment of concern or compassion for his lack of limbs, it passed quickly. He isn’t here for sympathy, and he isn’t here to be coddled. He is a warrior, and he is here to remember that.
The mat is filled with men and women, all here to challenge themselves, to better themselves, and, to some degree, prove something to themselves.
Josh has been coming to train at 6 Levels Orlando for the past six months. Grand Master Helio Gracie created and fine-tuned the art of jujitsu for everyone, weak or strong, able-bodied or physically challenged. Josh doesn’t ever focus on what he has lost, but rather concentrates on what makes him stronger.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for how much heart and passion that Josh has and the immense challenges that he has had to overcome. In Josh’s life, there are no shortage of possibilities in his future. He is currently attending Valencia College, working on his associate degree in culinary arts. He enjoys golfing, fishing, horseback riding, hunting and jujitsu.
Difficulties and challenges in life happen for everyone. We can choose to give up, give in, or do like Josh, and give it all you’ve got. I’m proud to know him, train him and call him a friend.
Jon Burke is the owner of The Six Levels in Winter Garden.