My Soldier’s Service Still Inspires & Drives Me Today
The challenge of how to find the same sense of purpose and the driving force of a compelling mission has been a challenge of veterans for decades, probably even centuries. Most recently, one of the greatest unifying comments from Post 9/11 Veterans (those that have served since the 9/11 attacks) has been how to rediscover and incorporate that same sense of purpose that they found in Iraq, Afghanistan, on their ship, or at the hundreds of other deployed locations around the globe.
The true benefit of military service is that it is a period in our lives that is singularly dedicated to serving a higher purpose and a higher mission that is far beyond individual concerns and worries. The benefits of military service go far beyond the pay, promotions, education, skills and adventure that are the basis of military recruitment advertising. You may join the military for pay and benefits, but you stay to contribute your part to completing the mission, protecting your friends, and instilling a sense of mission focus and mission accomplishment in your team.
I joined the U.S. Army right out of college and went into the Infantry and the Special Forces (The Green Berets). I was nothing extraordinary when I came into the U.S. Army, but the soldiers I served with helped to make me a far better person that I ever could have become on my own. In my first duty station in Korea, three of the Sergeants in my platoon; Sergeant First Class Moore, Sergeant Tipton, and Sergeant Sowers, held me to a very high standard. Despite being their Platoon Leader, the officer supposedly in charge of them, those three made me learn how to work every weapon, radio, and vehicle in our Mortar Platoon. Later, when I was in the Special Forces, two other senior Sergeants, Master Sergeant Trammell and Sergeant First Class Howell, were even more demanding that I learn how to be a parachute Jump Master, learn over the horizon navigation in rubber boats for ocean navigation, and how to be proficient in any number of foreign weapons. When I was in Iraq, Lieutenant Colonel White helped me truly understand how to employ strategy and effects so every single soldier placed on the battlefield was there to make a difference.
My military service in the U.S. Army still inspires and gives me a sense of purpose today. First, my exposure to the people of America showed me that differences of race, income, education, religion, and language matter very, very little to running a successful organization. What matters to run a successful organization is showing how every person’s job and purpose connect to make the organization run better. Second, my Sergeants taught me that personal performance always matters and high standards in learning your job are a baseline requirement, not a nice to have. Third, a leader must constantly set the example. I remember Master Sergeant Trammell in the Special Forces doing a 15 mile hike with an 80 lb. backpack the day before he retired because that was what leaders did. Finally, leaders must always be looking out to make their teams more effective and successful through teaching and training.
Military veterans need to look back on that sense of purpose and mission they had in the military and then find or recreate that sense of mission and purpose in their daily lives. Today, I am an old soldier and retired from the U.S. Army. I am involved in business, teaching college students, and helping military veterans succeed in their next careers. However, my drive, passion, and performance to be better each day comes from the hills of Korea, the fields of Bosnia, and the sands of Iraq, not the columns of a spreadsheet or a piece of software. The soldiers I served with years ago still inspire me today to make a difference in my company, my classroom, and my community.
Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Luke Pinneo