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Be Fearless: Stories That Will Inspire You to LIVE Your Life

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Crises and Extreme Circumstances

In extreme circumstances, like in a war, for instance, there's no time to be afraid, says Command Sergeant Major Emma Krouser, from her office in the Green Zone in Baghdad. All she could do was react when a bomb went off for the first time in the Iraqi Parliament Building last April. "It was shocking to hear the explosion and to see people running from the building screaming," Krouser, 49, recalls. She immediately sent over assistance and first-aid supplies, and in the ensuing chaos, she marshaled her soldiers to lead people fleeing the blast to a secure location. "My men and women look to me for leadership, and I wasn't going to let them down," Krouser explains.

No doubt, extraordinary times take extraordinary courage -- even when you aren't the one in harm's way. Lee Woodruff, 47, was at Disney World with her children when she got the call at 7 a.m. that her husband, Bob, on assignment in Iraq as coanchor of World News Tonight on ABC News, had taken shrapnel to the head. "I was reeling from the information, but I had to tell the kids and get them out the door and onto a plane," says Woodruff, coauthor with her husband of In an Instant. From that morning nearly two years ago, through his coma and many surgeries, she has had to be strong. "I was not always feeling 100 percent optimistic myself, but I knew I had to show a good, positive feeling about Bob for the kids," says Woodruff. "I kept the image of us as a family in my mind when I would start to falter."

Whether known to you personally or not, other people are incredibly powerful motivation for overcoming your fears. Thinking of the constituents in her Florida district is how Ileana Ros-Lehtinen came to be the first Hispanic woman in the U.S. Congress. "When my supporters originally suggested that I run, I thought they were crazy," says Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, 55, in Congress now for 18 years. "But a lot of people in my district are Cuban refugees, like myself, and their voices weren't being heard. They were my inspiration, and that's why I took the plunge, despite the fact that there were 13 people in the race and the perception was that I didn't have a chance."

Similarly, the possibility of helping people by providing them with affordable and well-made housing is what prompted Marianne Cusato, 33, first to design the 308-square-foot Katrina Cottage for disaster relief and then to walk away from her dream job to turn her creation into a reality. "I had this feeling in my heart of hearts that I could actually make a difference," says Cusato, who is part of a pilot program in Louisiana that is replacing FEMA trailers with new housing. "After I quit, I thought, 'What have I done? I have no safety net.' But on the off-chance I could raise the bar on what affordable housing is, I felt I had to see this idea through."

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