Iwas taken by the visual power of this ad in American COP Magazine, produced by Tactical Night Vision Company (TNVC, dealers in high-quality night vision and accessories). Former soldiers and police officers, all people who have used these sorts of products in the real world, run TNVC. In short, these are real fighters, real protectors-of-the-peace — “rough men” who stand guard at night so the rest of us may sleep safely. And, whether you believe it or admit it or not, or even deny it entirely, if you’re a working cop — especially a street cop — you too are one of those “rough men” (or women) who stand guard.

What struck me about TNVC’s ad was the seamless transition from the 2,500-year-old Spartan helmet worn by King Leonidas and his Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae (at their justly famous last stand — perhaps the essential “rough men” we’re talking about), to the modern helmet of today’s fighter. TNVC’s ad is elegant, but bold, and simply says “Same Fight. Different Day.”

And it is the same fight, simply 2,500 years later. You’re not defending a literal narrow pass as the Spartans did, but are defending a narrow line between right and wrong, good and evil, anarchy and order. That “thin blue line” is real, and you’re it. Some tend to glamorize it, some belittle it, most misrepresent it and nobody, nobody, truly understands it unless they’ve lived it.

I’ve heard the definition of courage is simply the ability to push past your fears and do the job at hand. Those who can’t get past those same fears don’t wear the helmet. Some synonyms for “courageous” are brave, dauntless and gutsy. But my favorite is “greathearted,” because anyone who does what’s right and what’s hard usually does it to help or protect others. To me, it shows they have a great heart. And, it’s not just the fact you’ll tackle adversity that makes this trait unusual and important — it’s the reasons you do it.

What brings people to be a part of that blue line? What makes us run toward gunfire, toward the collapse of a burning building? Why do we reach out to a crying child, comfort a distraught mother or tackle a hardened criminal even when we know the odds of us losing the fight are great?

It’s because you can’t help it. It’s in your genes. It’s as natural to you as taking that next breath, because, frankly — you live for it. You’re drawn to it, even though it’s dangerous, even though you might be injured or killed — you go.

You can’t help it. And, admit it, it’s exciting for you.

Overcoming your fear can incite feelings of exhilaration — that feeling you get when you feel and hear the click of the handcuff ratchet closing on a bad guy’s wrist. We like it. It’s almost like a drug to most of us, a final period on a quest we make every day to do what’s right, to fight the bad or comfort the injured.

We do it because we feel it’s right — but we do it also because we feel. You may be unpolished at times, you may make mistakes, you may have to put up with things you think are bull, but you’ll push though it, and you’ll run toward the sound of gunfire. Because it feels right to you to do it. You’re rough men and women. Wear the label proudly.