As I reflect on Women’s History Month, I wish I had met and been able to talk to my grandmothers. They were born around the turn of the last century and passed away long before I was born in the late 1960s.
From the stories passed down from my parents, aunts and uncles, my grandmothers were strong, stoic, and determined women who endured great hardship, made sacrifices, and cared of their large families during a difficult time in U.S. history.
Both my grandmothers saw most of their sons head off to war in Europe and Asia during the Second World War.
Below is an excerpt from chapter 6 of my book Strong Words and Simple Truths: The Courage to Communicate. The theme of the chapter is Veterans and Remembrance- The Strong Man.
“The first veterans I admired were my father, uncles, and cousins that served in the U.S. Military. Most of them, my dad included, were deployed across the globe to fight for freedoms during World War II. Their strength and resolve inspired me to become a leader and a servant to others. They were my role models of what it meant to be an American.
The idea of selfless service was instilled in me at an early age as I watched my parents and my dear cousins Joey, Patty, and Richie, volunteer for countless events at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Although my small hometown was only a few square miles, it was home to not one but two veteran organizations—The American Legion and the VFW. Every year when I was growing up, our town would have a Memorial Day parade that concluded at one of these two posts. In my family, Memorial Day was a special day marked by a solemn remembrance ceremony in the local cemetery.
My time on active duty in the U.S. Army in the early 1990s was relatively short and painless, but it left a lasting imprint on my perspective, leadership style, and values.
The veterans I have encountered have a strong sense of integrity and commitment to their families, friends, and community. They are a tough and resilient lot who are some of the most kind, generous, and boisterous people I know. “
Why did I join the US Army?
I’m not sure what possessed me to wander into the Army ROTC building on the college campus of Rutgers University at the end of my freshman year, but I filled out an application for an ROTC scholarship on the spot and quickly received word that I’d been accepted into the program that would commission me as a 2nd Lieutenant once I graduated. I didn’t tell my parents what I was doing until after I was accepted. They were both excited and happy for me. I was the 4th out of 5 children and the only one to graduate college and serve in the military. My strong, supportive mother, who was a civilian, inspired and motivated me to reach for the stars.
Looking back, I think there were three primary reasons why I signed up for military service in 1986. One was to help my parents with the cost of my college education, the second was my desire to see the world, and third was the sense of duty to my country that my family instilled in me.
I served as a Signal Platoon Leader with the 1st Cav Division during the Gulf War and spent 10 months in the middle of nowhere in northern Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq. My platoon consisted of 70 soldiers and our mission was to establish mobile communications for the tanks and command Humvees in the division.
What is important to me now?
Assisting and advocating for our veterans, like my parents did, has been my top priority for last 30 years. The incredible amount of civilian support I received made my transition out of the military easier and less traumatic. Positive veteran champions surrounded me and gave me the encouragement and tools I needed to succeed in my corporate career. Having employers that understood, appreciated, and leveraged my military skills truly helped to enhance and propel my business advancement.
I continue to be active in veteran organizations like the American Legion where I strive to keep my parent’s sense of Selfless Service alive in the community.
Supporting companies like Vanguard Veteran whose mission to equip civilians to become veteran champions is important to me as I look to expand my involvement in community and veteran outreach programs.
Now, more than ever, it is vital that we remember and honor those who have come before us and sacrificed for our rights and our freedom. I am sure that my grandmothers and my parents would be smiling with approval.