Veterans Day has passed and we’ve taken the time to remember and thank those who have served, those who’ve served by our side and those who’ve served before us. As I reflected on the men and women I have served with, I began thinking about the people who inspired me to continue serving through Team Rubicon.
Those made us want to work harder, to strive to be our best, to lead but also know when to follow, and to serve a purpose greater than ourselves. We should all take some time to reflect upon these men and women, because without them, I’m not sure how many of us would have chosen to don that gray shirt and muck out flooded basements, provide medical care to earthquake and typhoon victims, pick up a chainsaw, or even click through those ICS classes.
One inspiration has stood out to me in particular over these last couple days. I had only been in Germany for a few hours, fresh out of Infantry School, when I first met him. Before I even got a chance to speak, he had me in the front-leaning rest position. At that time, he was the training NCO and he was taking me for an introduction with the company First Sergeant.
Unfortunately, I was completely out of uniform. At some point while switching between push-ups and flutter kicks, he finally asked me why I was so messed up (in very colorful language, I’ll add). I explained the airline lost my luggage, and he looked at me with pity in his eyes, but the smoke session lasted for a few more minutes before he brought me to the First Sergeant’s office and left. He was the first person who was not a Drill Sergeant to smoke me, and to be honest, I just thought he was an asshole. It would be quite a while before I had any interaction with him again and know any better.
Months later, he was promoted into an open squad leader position in my platoon, and that’s when I saw the leader I would follow and would like to become one day. At first, I had respect for his rank and position, but it didn’t take long before I had a strong respect for the man. I remember the pride he took in wearing the uniform and serving his country while instilling that pride in his soldiers. I remember the time he took developing us as leaders, so we could step up when the time came and the discipline he brought to our profession. If you were being smoked by him, you knew it wasn’t to punish but to make you better; a concept I still hadn’t quite grasped at the time of that first encounter. If you approached him with a problem, he wouldn’t just solve it for you – he’d help you find a way to solve it yourself.
Then I remember the tougher times. We were in Kuwait doing our last-minute deployment training and preparing for our convoy into Iraq. Late one night, one of his squad members took his own life. I remember seeing in his face and how hard it hit him. But mostly, I remember his strength and how it helped the entire platoon get through it, but especially his squad. He never stopped preparing them for what was to come.
When he was transferred to another battalion a few days later, I thought we were somewhat less without him. He was killed in action a little over a year later. Our platoon made it through the deployment together as a team, which I’ve always felt was just as much of a reflection upon his leadership and example as it was on us. I wear his name permanently etched on a bracelet, but his example is permanently etched in my mind, especially when dealing with my soldiers.
I didn’t write this to tell you a sad story but to get you to think about those in your life who inspired you to work harder, to strive to be your best, to lead but know when to follow, and to serve a purpose greater than yourself. Whether your parents and grandparents who helped establish the values and beliefs you still hold today, the teacher who saw something in you no one else did, or a friend who was there for you no matter what the situation; the drill sergeants and instructors who broke you down only to build you back up, and the team leaders and supervisors who prepared you to step up when the time came.
Then, think about the first time you heard of veterans responding to a natural disaster and how it inspired you to join the mission. Without these people in our lives, how many of us would have donned a gray shirt?
But no matter how inspired you get to lend a hand, DO NOT SELF-DEPLOY!