Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Reflection: Veterans Day 2015

Each year, whether I write a post or simply set aside time, I find myself reflecting on Veterans Day. It's actually a bit inescapable if one is connected to social media. I see images posted by many of my friends as they take time to remember with pride the time they served and the people they had an opportunity to serve with. For those who have retired, and for those still serving, the rest of the nation turns its eyes, thoughts, and attention to these incredible acts of service.

Uncle Bill (left) with Dad and Jerry West.
Over my adult life, I have had the privilege of serving with and learning from many veterans. My Uncle Bill has always demonstrated the value of serving others first. He and his late wife always practiced hospitality and generosity when we would visit his house, and even today, I know that none of his family or their friends ever lack when there is a need. When I visit home, I always want to make it a point to visit with him and listen to the amazing stories of his more than 80 years of living.

Okima. Mentor, leader, wisdom-keeper, and human being.
The foremost veteran I learned from was/is the former Principal Chief of my tribe. Okima (which I called him as a term of respect), served during WWII in the US Navy, and was not only an incredible spiritual leader and mentor, but wonderful role model with regard to service, discipline, respect, and honor. He was hard but fair, stern but compassionate, and resolute but gracious. He taught me much about what it means to give of one's self, and to never relent when it comes to hard work. He also demonstrated one of the most wonderful relationships with Jesus that I have ever seen. He set the standard for me to understand what it means to be a human being. He was a real human being.

And over the last several years, I've the privilege of working with some amazing veterans at Nuru. When Nuru was beginning, Jake Harriman, Gaby Blocher, and Don Faul brought the rigor and discipline that they had learned at the United States Naval Academy and in the Marine Corps to the work of fighting extreme poverty, and over the years, I've had the proud honor of learning from additional veteAlex Martin, Mike Bigrigg, and Brian Von Kraus are each bringing the fight to extreme poverty with a level of rigor and tenacity that is inspiring to see.

rans who have transitioned from military service to bring their skills, experience, and leadership to fight extreme poverty.

Additionally, over the last few weeks I've been reading a book by Leif Babin and Jocko Willink called Extreme Ownership. I hope to eventually write a formal review of the book, but one of the big take-aways I've had so far is that most of us in the civilian world have very little idea the level of chaos our brothers and sisters are working to bring order out of. Most of us live with a distorted sense of what a 'bad day' is. A bad day is losing a teammate, a friend, a member of one's tribe. A bad day is knowing that even when you bring your best, there are scars that we gather and gain, and losses we simply cannot prevent.

And when I think about the veterans I have had the honor of rubbing shoulders with, I am in awe at the resilience, the tenacity, and the discipline that each one of them continues to bring--whatever team they are serving on and wherever life's journey takes them.

On a day like Veterans Day, we remember those who have fallen, those who are still down range, and those who are working to transition into so-called 'normal' life. Businesses and individuals offer their thanks for service and their applause for sacrifice. But, I can't help but wonder if there is a better means for expressing gratitude and honor than words and applause. What if more of this world operated by a code of honor? What if more men and women chose to live their lives with an others first mentality?  What if we chose sacrifice over self-indulgence? What if we chose to emulate the example of those few who have set aside their own comfort for the sake of their fellow humans? To me, I feel like that would be the best gesture of gratitude that could be bestowed upon those who have served, those who have fallen, and those who are still down range.

May we all aspire to live courageous lives of sacrifice, service, courage, and commitment, and may we demonstrate honor and respect as we seek to build a better world.

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