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.