Alter your Thinking

IMG_2625I suppose this year has just been one of those times of reflection.  With our youngest son graduating from high school and getting ready to move away to college, our oldest son across the country in the Army and our daughter hitting the books in college, this year has really provided opportunities to reflect.
A look back at the last 20 years of fatherhood, 22 years of marriage, the ending of an Army career and getting closer to my 50th birthday has been wonderful, scary, and eye-opening.
I think that as I grow older and maybe a little wiser I tend to look at things a bit different and find myself looking for answers or solutions to some of the problems I see around me.  I have no hope for our political issues and see no fix in the near future and so I am focusing my energy on that which I can have an impact on.  The things, people, and places that I can touch and make a difference at and to.
One of the biggest problems that has been weighing on my mind lately is our young men.  Not my sons, but a collective of our young men that we are in contact with.  I try to understand them and learn as to what makes them tick.  What motivates them?  What gets them out of bed in the morning?  What is it that they will contribute to our community?
In looking at them it dawned on me that we have some serious issues with them just becoming men.
We as a nation are not letting them grow up to be men.  In Scouting we constantly talk about Character, but what about manliness?  What makes them men?
In thinking on this I am trying to define what that means or looks like.
Rugged?  Well, it does not have to mean that.  Self reliant?  That is a big issue.  Courteous and Kind.  Hard working.  Providers, hunter gatherers.
My Dad showed me what it is to be a man.  He showed me how to love his family, protect them and care for them.  He taught me to be a provider and never to let them down.  He showed me the value of working hard and being rewarded for hard work.  He demonstrated to me determination and applying yourself to get what you want.  He taught me how to compete and be a good sport.  He showed me how to be a faithful husband and loving dad.
There are many traits of being a man who I think get lost when a young man does not have that man to show them.  And then it was clear.  We are missing men… Dad’s.
I grew up in a generation that won’t be labeled great or unique.  My generation learned from parents that by and large stayed together.  The guys I grew up with were pretty much the same.  I grew up an Army Brat.  Moved every three years and learned to make new friends annually.  The guys I grew up with had Dad’s that went away to Vietnam.  We were all about 1-year-old when our Dad’s went away and left us with Mom.  Mom was still there when Dad got back.  We were Army families.  Everyone I knew had a Mom and a Dad.  I did not know divorced people.  It was not till I became a Cubmaster that I was introduced to my first single parent.  That was 15 years ago.  This revelation was mind numbing for me.  It was something that I did not understand.  Parents are just supposed to stay together.  My parents are still together after 48 years, why can’t other people make that kind of commitment?
Marriage is disposable these days and it is criminal to me.  I do not believe in “irreconcilable differences”.  If you have problems, work them out.  “For better or for worse” that was the promise I made 22 years ago and I intend to keep it.  Our marriage has not been all peaches and cream, but neither is life.  It takes work to make it work.  It takes an altering of thinking to change the result.  Our society needs to alter its thinking on the casual nature of marriage.
Being husband and wife is not a flavor of the month and when you introduce children to the equation it ramps the intensity of the commitment to another level.
This attitude of disposable relationships I feel is the single biggest issue in boys not becoming good men.  As much as I value Mom’s, they can not be Dad’s.
Dad’s make men when they are engaged in their lives and serve their son’s as a teacher and mentor.  Not a buddy, but a parent that teaches manliness.
A Dad that teaches his son to respect women.  Teaches the value of family and the importance of keeping the family together.  Passing on tradition and culture.  Teaching that values drive Character and that you do what you value.
This is manliness and it is being missed on a generation that is growing up in a world that does not value hard work and reward.  Where mediocre is ok and that government is more important than family.  That there is always a safety net and that skills and education are not as important as learning systems.  A world that punishes risk taking and praises just going along.  A world that rewards the individual as long as everyone else is rewarded to.
We need to alter that thinking.
We need to reward achievement and hard work.  We need to praise Dad’s that stick it out and raise good young men.  We need to frown on the disintegration of marriage and the promises that come with committing oneself to another.  We need to alter our thinking from an attitude of what’s in it for me to what is in it for us.  We need to stop being selfish and think about someone else for a change.  Think about those young men that will be rudderless men in the very near future if we do not alter our thinking.
In talking with my 20 year son on Sunday over the phone I could not help but listen to him as we talked about his life in the Army.  The lessons he learned at home that are making him a success in life now.
Then sitting on the bed with my youngest son making plans to pack up his stuff to get ready to move to college.  The knowledge that he will do well because of the solid foundation of values and skills he has to go and be a man.
Looking back over this last couple months taking a deep look at the past and then a glance to the future I am left with the satisfaction that my wife and I have done well.  At the same time I fear for the future of the young men of our community and beyond.  Unless we alter our thinking, we will set them up to fail.
We need to make them men.
What are you doing to make a difference?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Leadership | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Let me tell you about my week…

joshgradIt started like most weeks, a Troop meeting on Monday night then the rest of the week was all about my youngest son’s High School Graduation from Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon.  You may have heard about our little town.
Troutdale sits at the confluence of the Sandy and Columbia rivers.  The town was founded back in 1792 by Lt. Broughton and his men.  There is a bluff named after him that over looks the town.  The City of Troutdale was not incorporated till 1907 though and was a stop on the way to Portland along the rail that made its way through the famous Columbia River Gorge.
We have two Elementary Schools, one Middle School, and one High School in the City of Troutdale.  The High School serves a big chunk of East Multnomah County (all the way into Portland) and is the second largest High School in the State of Oregon.
You may have heard of the High Schools fantastic Music program, vocational education, and center for advanced learning.  Or maybe you know of Reynolds High School because of its great Arts and Communication Center.  It is a state of the art complex.  It may be the outstanding athletics of Reynolds High.  If you are a part of our community you would know of lots of great things that happen at our High School.  Instead you know of a shooting.  5 rounds fired, two students dead, one was the student that did the shooting, one teacher grazed, an entire community in shock.
That’s what you know about our High School.
That was Tuesday.
Wednesday, hair cuts and party preparations for Josh’s graduation.
Thursday, Lunch with the family at a nice Italian place in downtown Troutdale then off to graduation.  Very great to watch these young men and women cross over into adulthood with their High School diplomas.  I have known so many of these kids since they were toddlers.  It is great to see how grown up they are.
Speeches about adversity and learning from life’s hardships, your standard commencement speeches and then off to chaperon the Senior All night Party.  A super fun night playing games out at Bull Winkles Fun Center.  Had a Ball.
Friday was all about preparations for the big party Saturday.  Friday we had a birthday party for my niece.
Saturday the big party.  Cooked 85 servings of chicken, all prepared in the dutch ovens and all of the fixings.  Great turn out and a fun party.
Sunday (the day of rest) I was awakened by a phone call from my son serving in the Army.  Just a father’s day greeting and we talked for an hour.  Next hour on the phone with my dad, then off to clean up the last stuff from the party.
A great Fathers day dessert with Dad and family and now time to relax.
Sorry if I didn’t blog this week… You can see why.
What I know for sure.
The media will turn corn flakes into a circus.  I will not take anything away from the tragic loss of the families involved in the shooting in school gym.  I pray for them and recognize their pain.  But enough already with the media looking for a story that is not there.  They made the graduation a complete circus and it made a lot of the families there that wanted to celebrate their son or daughters achievement second to an event that no one can do anything about now a circus and they were not pleased.  It’s done, over, and hopefully will not happen again.
I will not debate any of the issues that hover around this.  I have my opinions and will not turn my blog into that circus.
Thursday was my sons day.  It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and the results of four great years and a positive High School experience.  One shooting will not ruin that for him.  Again, not to take anything away from the families, but someone is shot in Portland every day.. never makes the news.
It made out week, a week that was all about the Seniors an emotional roller coaster, but in the end, the Seniors showed that this would not define their high school story.  They partied and had an awesome celebration of their lives and their futures.  I applaud them for that.
Here was else I know for sure.
Life is short.  Hug you kids every day and then hug them some more.  Love them and teach them to love.  Be an example of Character to your kids.  Know who your kids are and share in their lives.  You need not be their buddy, you need to be their parent.
Volunteer at the School.  Know the School and what your kids do there.  Be apart of their education.  Teachers can not do it alone.
Help your kids be successful.  Know that when they fail they need a hand to get back up.
Have dinner together, even if it’s not at the table.
Talk to your kids, know them, and love them.
What a hell of a week.  Glad tomorrow is Monday and we can do it all over again.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Ideals, Leadership | Tags: | Leave a comment

I’m Calling you out!

hoseAt our Troop meeting last night we got into a good discussion about “kids these days”.  I contend that the kids are no different, they are still kids.  The world is the same.  It still spins and the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.
I know that all of you have seen those posts on Facebook, you know the ones that say something like;
If you remember drinking from a hose, playing outside till the street lights came on, playing Cowboys and Indians, having dirt clod fights, standing on the swing set, getting a bloody nose because you spun on the merry-go-round to fast, than you are were part of this or that generation..  Hit like and Share.. you know… that post.
Well, who is it that posts and shares that.  WE DO.  We, the adults that are raising kids today.  SO…
I’m calling you out.
The world has not changed.. WE DID.  We got soft and now won’t let our kids do what we did… but we find comfort in sharing that hypocritical garbage on Facebook.
LET YOUR BOYS BE BOYS or stop posting that stuff.
We got into a discussion about “The Greatest Generation” the other day.  What made them great.  The world at that time was a scary place.  We came out of worse economic times, a World War and then another one.  We saw mass murder and a generation of young Americans scared for life by what they experienced in their war.
I contend that this generation should be the Greater.  But we will not let them.
We fill them full of pills, we hand our participation ribbons and try as hard as possible not to hurt their feelings.  We keep them in a bubble and never let them explore their world.  We set limits and boundaries and teach them to add by counting dots not numbers.  We preach that the world is their oyster but never let them get in the water.
We are hypocrites.  This generation will never be great because we won’t let them.
We send them off to fight in a war that no one wants to win.  What is the message.  I don’t care about politics.. we fight to win.. or don’t go.   Tyranny is Tyranny, Nazi or Taliban.. they are the same enemy so lets win, just like we did in 1945.  That winning helped shape the generation.
Let them drink from a hose and get skinned knees.  It only hurts for a while.
I once heard a Sergeant of mine tell us that “pain is temporary, being a loser is a life sentence.”  It comes done to the character of the generation.  WE are growing that generation and I find it unacceptable.
So.. what are we going to do about it.  Nothing.  We will hit like and maybe share… but at the end of the day, we will shelter, over protect, and dump a gallon of hand sanitizer on our sons and buy them a new video game.  What’s the worse thing that can happen there?
Crime is no worse, the woods are still the woods, creepy people are still out there as they always have been, and the world is not coming to an end any time soon.
I’m calling you out!  What are you going to do?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Habit of Service

goodturncoinDuring my recent Vigil Ordeal I had lots of time to sit and think.  Being a student of Baden Powell, thought about the book Aides to Scoutmastership.  Powell authored this book in 1920 and its contents hold true today.  Substitute King and Queen and some of the Victorian era language, and the message Baden Powell sent to Scoutmasters in 2014 is spot on.
During Vigil Ordeal I gave a lot of thought to the idea of service.  After all, this was the central focus of the Vigil. Learning about myself and finding that way in which I could be a leader in service.
When I got home I went to my copy of Aides to Scoutmastership and reread it knowing that our Founder would once again speak to me from its pages.
I stumbled on this passage that I will share in its entirety.  It speaks volumes as to our attitude of service and the importance of developing in our Scouts that habit of service.
When I was a Scout we had a little coin that we carried, it reminded us to “Do a Good Turn Daily”.  Once the good turn was done, the coin was transferred to the other pocket, and so it went one good turn after another.
I hope you find this passage as meaningful as I do.
TO ERADICATE SELFISHNESS – THE GOOD TURN HABIT
The Scouting practices tend in a practical way to educate the boy out of the groove of selfishness. Once he becomes charitable he is well on the way to overcome or to eradicate the danger of this habit.  The Promise that a Scout makes on joining has as its first point: “To do my duty to God.” Note that it does not say “To be loyal to God,” since this would merely be a state of mind, but to do something, which is the positive, active attitude.
The main method in the Boy Scout Movement is to give some form of positive training rather than merely to inculcate negative precepts, since the boy is always ready to do rather than to digest.
Therefore, we put into his activities the practice of Good Turns in his daily life as a foundation of future goodwill and helpfulness to others. The religious basis underlying this is common to all denominations, and we, therefore, interfere with the form of none.
The boy can then realize better that part of his “Duty to God” is to take care of and develop as a sacred trust those talents with which God has equipped him for his passage through this life; the body with its health and strength and reproductive powers to be used in God’s service; the mind with its wonderful reasoning, memory and appreciation, which place him above the animal world; and the soul, that bit of God which is within him-namely, Love, which can be developed and made stronger by continual expression and practice. Thus we teach him that to do his Duty to God means, not merely to lean on His kindness, but to do His will by practicing love towards one’s neighbor.
The curious thing is that this duty of Service for Others through Good Turns is the one to which Scouts rise with the fullest alacrity. On this seemingly small foundation (the giving up of small personal conveniences or pleasures in order to render service) is built the character of self-sacrifice for others.
Let me know what you think of this passage and share your ideas about growing an attitude of service in your Scouts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Service | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Just a Quick note to the Blog Followers.

1450824_244807472343666_426054249_nI just hit ‘Publish’ on my latest post and thought that I needed to drop a quick note to all of the followers of the blog.
As you may have noticed, I went from daily posts to more random, less frequent posts lately.  There is no lack of interest or passion.  I am just busier than heck right now and the blog had to take a back seat.
As you should know if you have been following, our youngest Son, Josh is graduating from High School this week.  Now under normal circumstances that would mean family coming into town, parties and of course the graduation ceremony itself.
With Josh being recruited to play college football it has also meant long rides down to California where he will be attended college, time spent on the phone with coaches, getting him into the School, dorms etc.  Football players are required to take Summer term also as they are on campus practicing.  So we have gone from 0 to 60 in days.
I do not want to sound like I am complaining, but this process is not an easy one.
For Josh there was a lot of uncertainty as to where he would be going to School.  While his classmates all filled out college applications early in the year, most being accepted as early as April, Josh had to wait to see which college was going to take him to be on the football team.  In most cases this process can go right up to graduation.  We were luckier in that we had a month to get it all done.
In talking with other parents that are going through this and college coaches we have learned the reality is that there just are not a lot of Division 1 athletes out there.  You know the guys that you hear about on ESPN or go on to get full rides at Notre Dame.  There are thousands of high school football players that will never play another game after high school.  So between Div 1AA, II, III, NAIA, and JC there is a ton of competition for those limited roster spots.  It only takes a visit, an injury, or a phone call for everything to change at the last-minute of your high school life that will impact where you go, if you go, and what you will do next.
For us as a family this has been stressful and exciting at the same time.  Josh landed in a good spot.  Today, he is not a DIV 1 athlete, like most of the high school players around the nation.  That is reality, but his dream and opportunity live on and he has the chance of one day being that guy that made his dream come true.
So the blog has suffered a little in this period of transition as we have done what we can to move our son forward.
I am still working my blog ticket.. and it is coming along, slow but sure.
Thanks for your patience and your comments.
Thanks for hanging in there.
Thanks for coming back, again and again.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Where do they go from here?

gradsIt’s that time of the year.. Graduation season.  And in a lot of cases, it’s Eagle Scout season too as the young man becomes motivated by his up coming 18th Birthday.  So Congratulations to all the Grads and New Eagle Scouts this year.
Thursday night I attended the graduation ceremony of my nephew.  He is also our Troops newest Eagle Scout.  As we sat in the coliseum waiting for the graduation to start, I took a look at the program.  In it was a list of the graduates of the Gresham High School Class of 2014.  Quickly my eyes moved to find Lucas’s name, but as I scanned the page my eyes caught other names.  Jacob P, James P, Jeffery D, Jake R… These were all Scouts that have been in our Troop.  Over time some of them lost interest, had other obligations, and even earned their Eagle award and still participate.  There were other names of young men that I know from other Troops in our area.  I have watched them grow through the Order of the Arrow and other Scouting activities.  As I looked over the names I found them in the crowd.  They are all grown up.
After the graduation was over I went looking for these guys to wish them well and congratulate them.  For some it was the first time I had seen them in a while, for others we talk regularly.  The common thought that ran through my mind was how grown up they all looked on Thursday night.  Reflecting back on when they crossed over into the Troop, their first camp outs and some of the funny things they had done to bring a spark in our Troop.  Then the question repeated over and over again through out the crowd was, “What are they going to do now?”, “Where do you go from here?”
Some are going off to college in the fall, some are going to trade schools.  Some are heading into the Service, and some still are kind of undecided.  On the list of names was a list of the Scholarships and the graduates that are receiving them.  I was pleased to see that our guys are doing well.  Everyone of the Scouts from our Troop are going on to do something that they have passion for and will better themselves.  Jacob was the big surprise of the evening.  I have not seen him in some time.  He is a young man who has always had a rough go, a tough family situation, and the chips never seemed to fall in his favor.  He is going to college in the fall and received a Scholarship that will help him see his dreams come true.  I spoke with him briefly after graduation.  He said he was sorry that he did not stay in Scouting.  I explained to him that I understood.  He then told me that the reason he is the person he is today is because of the time he spent in our Troop.  Not the rank or merit badges, but the life lessons and skills that he learned.  The way to be a man and live a life of Character.  He asked if he was allowed to hug me, I said yes.  We parted ways with a smile and a promise that I will be there when he graduates from college.
Where do they go from here?
My youngest son is graduating also this year.  Thursday night of this coming week.  Josh spent many years in our Troop also and had to make a choice to play Football or stay in Scouts.  He picked Football, but not until he and I talked and looked at his dreams.  Josh has had the dream of playing in the NFL since he was in 3rd grade.  He set his goals high and worked hard.  He would throw that football for hours working on accuracy.  Then as he grew he got faster, stronger, and more knowledgeable about the game.  He understood the steps to getting to the NFL.  High School football, College football, get his degree, and never stop getting better.
He played every down in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades and then won the starting job in Middle School.  As a Freshman he started at Quarterback on the Freshman team and was the 3rd string QB on the Varsity team.  His Sophomore year he became the starting Quarterback of the Varsity team and played in the position until the last snap of his Senior year.  College Scouts looked at him, recruited him, and he knew that his dream was going to come true.  It’s just a matter of where.  Southern Oregon University finally offered him a Red Shirt QB position on the team.  But with it comes no guarantee that he will play.  If you do not play, you do not get better and you do not get seen.  The College of the Redwoods had been watching Josh and gave him an offer to actually play.  He took it.  Josh will be playing Football in College starting this year.
Determination, Patience, and a strong work ethic drove him to seeing his dreams come true.  Step by step he is making his dreams a reality.
This has been a long and hard road for him and our family.  Thousands of miles on the road to camps and college visits.  Thousands of dollars in fees, hotels, and gas for the truck.  It is has taken time and energy, pain and lots of tears.  But in the end, it is all coming alive the way he wants it.
I was told once by a mentor of mine, that the job of a Dad (among other jobs) is to make our kids dreams come true.  My oldest Son is serving in the Army.  Little did we know that he always had a vision of serving and doing great things in the Military.  My example and teaching him over the year that he grew up the son of a Sergeant Major lead him to success in finding his path.  I still want him to go to college, and would love for him to be home, but I know that he is finding his way.. his way.
Our Daughter is going to college to ultimately serve in the area of Childhood development.  I am so proud of this kind-hearted, sweet young women.  She is blossoming into beautiful young lady with a heart of gold.
When I look at the young men that come through our Troop, I wonder, where do they go from here.  Have we done everything we can to prepare them.  Do they know that life does not hand out participation ribbons and at times it is very difficult to navigate the challenges.
My Scouts and My kids have shown me those answers.  Character, Determination, and finding your dream is the key.
It does not matter where they go or how they get there.  It is what they do with it once they arrive that I come to find out is most important.
They don’t all go to college, but have great lives.  They don’t all make a million dollars, but are rich in their hearts and minds.
I am proud of all of them.
Congratulations to Lucas my nephew and Josh, my youngest Son!  And Congratulations to all of the young men that passed through our Troop and are proving today that Scouting mattered in their lives.
Congratulations to the Class of 2014!
“So long as your desire to explore is greater than your desire to not screw up, you’re on the right track. A life oriented toward discovery is infinitely more rewarding than a life oriented toward not blowing it…Don’t be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.” - Ed Helms, Commencement Address at Knox College 2013.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Leadership, Scouts, Service, Skills, Values | Tags: | Leave a comment

Communicate for results

bullhornCommunicating effectively became crystal clear for me while I was a Student in the US Army Ranger School.  One minute you are chest deep in water slogging your way through a swamp and the next minute you are being told you are now the leader and you have 5 minutes to find out what the heck is going on.  A quick transfer of information from one leader to the next and you are off to complete the mission.  You learn right then how effectively the briefing was communicated to you and you learn even faster that the guy ahead of you did not pay attention.  You success or failure is now in the hands of a tired, hungry, wet, and miserable Ranger that you are trying to glean as much information out in 5 minutes.
What becomes indelibly marked in your brain is that the more ineffective, ambiguous, or unclear the communication, the more the follower must and will assume.
Assumption is never a good thing when a task is supposed to completed to a certain standard or completed the way in which the leader has seen in his vision.
That vision must be clearly shared and expressed in such a way that everyone has a clear understanding of what you want.  If it is not, they will assume and you will not get the results you are looking for.
As part of the leadership principles we teach our Scouts, Communicating effectively will reduce the amount of drama, conflict, and failed results that the Junior leader will have to endure.
The leader can make his life easier by starting with clear communication.  This is a skill that must be practiced over and over again.  It is imperative that the leader be given the chance to practice and fail if necessary to  develop good communication habits.
If you want results, you start with effective communication.  As an adult leader allowing ineffective communication from your youth leaders in unacceptable.  Teach, coach, train, and mentor them to better communication skills.  Allow them to make mistakes, but not make the mistakes the norm.
Every Scout has the ability to communicate effectively.  Styles may differ, but if they want to be successful, they need to develop good communication skills and use them.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Meet the new President

Allow me to share this video of our New National Scout President.  Dr. Robert Gates.
You know his resume… so I will not share that.  I listened to this 27 minute speech given at the National Meetings with some interest.  I want to know what he is planning on doing to impact Scouting during his two-year term.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Rex Tillerson, the previous National President.  I thought he helped move Scouting forward.  I have great hope in what this new administration will do, especially after listening to this speech.
I really liked his closing.  I think he is spot on.
Enjoy.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Liberty

soldiersalute
Our Nation remembers today those that have given for our Country.  Their motives all different, their sacrifice great.
John F. Kennedy once said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
That is in the heart of those that serve and have served.  Articulated in many ways, but there just the same.
God Bless those that serve and have served, especially on this Memorial Day.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Memorial Day 2014

bluestarEach passing year brings new or rekindled emotions as we enter the Memorial Day weekend.  This past year I have sparked new interest in my status as a Veteran as I have renewed some friendships with men that I served with long ago and have taken a look at my career as a soldier and the what that all means now that I am removed from that part of my life.
What I have learned more than anything else is that the bonds and at a risk of sounding cliché, the brotherhood shared with the men that I served with are lasting.
This morning I watched a TED talk.  The subject was “Why Veterans miss war”.  I thought, this guy must be out of his mind.  The speaker is Sebastian Junger, he was an “embed” that is what we called embedded reporters, those reporters that become a part of a unit through the time of their deployment.  Junger was embedded with a unit in Afghanistan, a unit made famous by the documentary “Restrepo”.  Junger followed the 2nd Platoon B Company 503rd Infantry of the 173rd Airborne.  Again, I thought this guy was an absolute nut case, but I thought to myself; “Well, I’ve seen the movie and it tells the story of pretty much what any Infantry Platoon is like, so I’ll listen to his talk”.  His point is that they do not miss the battle, they don’t miss the conditions or the locations.  What they miss when they get home is the brotherhood.  The idea that there is no one in our daily lives that will ever understand the bond and the love that we have for one another.  The absolute trust that this man to my left and the man to my right love me enough to give their life for me.  They know that in their daily contacts there is no one that will do that in Anytown, USA.  That bond is left on the battlefield, in the FOB (Forward Operating Base), in the camp.  They will never have that contact again in the context that it belongs and so they miss war.
My war-time experience was a little different in that by the time the Army saw fit to send me to war, I had progressed through the ranks and now was in a position at the Battalion level.  680 soldiers in our care, the Commander and I knew that beyond good decision-making our soldiers were in the hands of those men directly to their left and right.  This is a weird position to be in as we knew what it took to be at those squad and platoon levels, but now were removed to a certain extent from “their world”.  The brotherhood and bond though in an Infantry Battalion remains the same.  My love for those soldiers was and ever will be deep and true.
As the Senior Non Commissioned Officer of the Battalion it was my charge to ensure that the NCO’s of the Battalion were trained and ready to serve their men.  I can remember the day before we deployed to Iraq I called all of the NCO’s of the Battalion together.  From the Team Leaders all the way up through the First Sergeants.  I shared some thoughts about leadership and keys that will get up through the next year.  The final thought was simple.  Love your men.  When you love them you will serve them.  Know that you will not be able to shelter them or put a bullet proof force field around them, but every decision you make, every move that take, you need to put them ahead of yourself.  That bond of trust and love made us successful.  It was not easy and not without pain and decent, but the NCO’s of my Battalion understood that no matter the mission, the circumstances, or the decision, we would take care of our soldiers.
It’s weird to look a man in the eye and wish him well as he is about to leave the safety of the FOB and enter bad guy country.  Could that the last time you see him?  I had many close friends that I served with, men that at one time or another we developed friendships and bonds that proved painful on days that we knew would be bad.  One such soldier was Scott Shobert.  Scott and I served for years together, he always being in a subordinate role.  Squad leader when I was a First Sergeant etc.  Scott later became a Sergeant Major also and is now retired.  One evening Shobert was taking his Platoon out on a patrol to set an ambush along a know route that the insurgents used to move supplies.  They also knew that this route was used by US forces to move supplies in and out of Baghdad.  On this particular evening there was a weird feeling flowing through the camp and the platoon seems a bit antsy.  I talked with Scott before they mounted up.  He had his platoon doing Pre Combat checks and he turned to me and smiled.  “We’ll be alright Sergeant Major” he said.  “I know” I said.  As he jumped into the back of the 5 ton, the last man to load, I reached up and shock his hand.  That weird feeling that I may not see him again.  It was that moment that I really got it.  That feeling of brotherhood.  The Battalion Commander walked up and said that he wanted someone from HQ to have eyes on the ambush that night, there was a container with US equipment broke down in the area and it was pretty high on the priority list that we care for it.
I told the Commander that I would go.  My driver and I got ready and followed the Patrol out and joined them.  The rest of the company moved into that area later in the night and the ambush was set.  As we lay there in tall grass overlooking the ambush site, I could hear the nervous energy coming from the men of the support by fire position.  Chewing gum like it was the last piece on earth savoring each and every chew.  One soldier looked at and asked what the hell I was doing there.  I told him that I was there to make sure he didn’t do anything stupid.  He smiled at me and said “yes mom”.. we let out a quiet chuckle.
What happened the rest of that night doesn’t really matter and surely does not need to be shared in this context.  The point is that is what I miss.  So I suppose Junger is right.  We do miss it.
On the other hand.  This Memorial Day, I think about all the men that I served with, especially those that rest eternally in the Great Assembly area.
I fly a Blue Star Banner in my window at my house.  This is the same Blue Star Banner that my wife flew for me.  Now it serves my neighborhood as a reminder that my Son is serving and will one day answer the call.  Today, he is developing that bond that I know so well.  Today, my son is a part of the Brotherhood of Infantrymen, like me that know what it means to look left and right and commit to never, ever letting that man down.  That is something that does not exist here.  There are people in our neighborhood that do not know what the banner means, they don’t understand why my flag fly’s proud in the front yard.  They will never know.  They say “Thank you for your service”, but for the most part do it because they are supposed to now a days.
goldstarThere is a woman in our community that flies a Gold Star Banner at her home.  Her husband was one of my Soldiers.
This Memorial day, I think of him.  Staff Sergeant Brad Lindsey.  Killed in Action.
I can honestly tell you that I never want to trade my Blue Star for a Gold one… but this day.. above all others we Honor those that bear the burden of that Gold Star and remember the Soldier that the Star represents.
This Memorial Day Weekend stop for 10 minutes and remember.  It is impossible in America today not to be effected by the loss of a Soldier.  In every community, in every Town, City, and State of our Country we have felt the sting of the loss of a Soldier.
The only day of my Army career that I ever shed a tear was at the funeral of Lindsey.  His loss hurt me deep.  He was a good man, he was a great husband and father.  He was my radio operator when I was a First Sergeant and proved himself a good Soldier.
Take time and thank them, Honor them, talk to the living, and pray for dead.  Most of all Love them.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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