A Salute on this #VeteransDay

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A veteran’s legacy lives on in the stories and memories of their service passed down from father to son, or grandfather to granddaughter.

Karrie Sundbom, Act-On’s senior content marketing manager, shares the story of her maternal grandfather, Harold Leight, who piloted a C-47 during WWII. It was not a fighter – it carried no weapons – rather just delivered supplies, picked up injured men, that sort of thing.

However, he won the Distinguished Flying Cross medal for bravery for volunteering to fly behind enemy lines to deliver supplies to trapped allied soldiers. He kept his plane’s motor running, as the plane coasted in an open grassy area, while he left the cockpit to push out the supplies, then run back to the cockpit (completely shot up while he was in back) and then take off again. His actions helped save a regiment of allied soldiers.

“The way he tells it,” Karrie said, “When asked who would be willing to go on this very dangerous mission – near-death guaranteed, he said, ‘I was the only dumb one who didn’t take a step backwards.’

“Always humble.”

Americans today recognize the service and sacrifice of the more than 21 million veterans living in the U.S. The brave men and women of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard demonstrated selflessness in their service today and throughout our history.

Recognizing the service of its veterans, however, is something all countries share.

Gal Josefsberg, Act-On’s vice president of technology and products, was born near the hospital bedside of his father, who was recovering from the mortar fragment that went through his leg on the last day of the Yom Kippur war.

The picture is of him after he woke up in the hospital. “He went to the front lines a few weeks earlier while my mom was eight months pregnant and, when he came back critically injured and unconscious, she refused to leave his side even while she was in labor,” Gal said. “He still claims the first time he woke up and saw me in his arms that his first thought was ‘What kind of bomb hit me?’”

John Eugene Carpenter, father of Act-On’s Caryl Carpenter, served in WWII and the Korean War as a naval aviator. He was shot down twice, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross among other commendations. He passed away the week she started her training at Act-On.

“I was never so proud of my dad as I was the day the Navy showed up, played taps and presented my family with the flag,” Caryl, a sales engineer, said. “He was quite the man.”

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There are more, similar stories told from Act-On employees with loved ones who are or were veterans, as well as many employees like Partner Marketing Senior Manager Jennifer Machgan (Air Force), or Vice President of Finance Ryan Brady (Navy) who are veterans.

I am a Navy veteran, serving honorably (and sometimes not-so-honorably) on the USS Baltimore submarine. Go ahead, check out the Wikipedia entry. I’m that handsome young man next to the captain, holding a grounding rod and awaiting a helicopter transfer of some documents. The ship is now decommissioned. I’ve lost more hair and gained more weight. But the memories and experiences from that time are so fresh, I can still taste the salt of the sea (arrgh).

There will be a lot of deserved talk today about veterans, their service, and their sacrifice (and all the freebies from local businesses). One of the things not often talked about a veteran’s experience, however, is the opportunity we get to serve alongside a real cross section of America.

I was from Seattle. I became friends with other young men hailing from Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, California, Louisiana and the list goes on.

Now, a few days after we’ve elected a new president and after a long, tough, and oftentimes bitter campaign, some will be happy their candidate won and some will not. Some will be asking how do we move on from here, and some will wonder if we will be able to move on and heal.

Today, on Veterans Day, I am reminded of those diverse sailors I served alongside, and our ability to come together, put aside our many differences, and hustle, sweat and sacrifice to successfully execute our missions and safely return home.

In chatting with another veteran, 70-year old Robert Strong, a Coast Guard retiree, he had this to say about Veterans Day, “Regardless who is elected, this country will survive. It is an experiment that is still succeeding, and will succeed. It is incredibly important to recognize the freedom we enjoy here in this nation is not free. It is born on the sacrifice of veterans that have gone before us. The ability to cast dispersions on either of the political parties and the two candidates is a freedom unknown in so many parts of the world. These are things that we should never take lightly, but they have to be defended, they have to be protected. And the vanguard of that protection is our United States armed services, all five of them, all five branches. Veterans Day, to me, is a very special time, because it is keeping this great nation free.”

On a submarine – and this is true of all the service branches – every sailor from the captain down to the mess cook is critical to the ship having as many surfaces as it does dives (think about it). For example, the sound from a dropped wrench or toilet seat lid can potentially be heard miles away underwater and a submarine’s success is dependent on everyone on it, regardless of rank, being quiet.

We can and should look toward our veterans as a model for the rest of us for how they work together to achieve a common goal, whether we are talking about how we move forward as a country to successfully address some of the challenges before us; or how we overcome obstacles in our businesses.

There are few things more rewarding than giving of ourselves to make a difference in the lives of others. Rotarians call it “Service Above Self.” Most of us know someone – a family member, a relative or a friend or ourselves – who has served.

After serving our country so honorably and having been tested in ways many of us may never fully understand, we should seek their stories and explore what we can learn from them and how they developed from a cast of individuals into a team.

I and everyone at Act-On offer our thanks to all veterans, and to all of you who have a loved one who is or was a veteran. We salute you.