Today, our nation pauses on November 11 to remember the service and sacrifice of its veterans. This year, I would like to challenge you to do something else as well: draw inspiration from these outstanding men and women.
In spite of the tragedies of war, our veterans should be a great source of inspiration. They have served selflessly, often putting everything on the line for us and our values while asking very little in return. They are a great example in this “selfie” world where so much of our daily existence is about self-fulfillment, while the real heroes go largely unnoticed.
Our country and our world face great challenges. From Islamic extremism to the outbreak and spread of Ebola, from new terrorism threats to countries like Russia, Iran and China that are rattling sabers and suppressing basic human rights, the world is a dangerous place. At home, working families worry about economic stability, finding or keeping a job, and violence in our communities. violence in our schools.
We as a people need something to believe in. We need role models to inspire a brighter future.
On this special American day, we should all draw inspiration from our veterans. Most certainly, we should thank them for their service, honor their sacrifices and pray for those who are in harm’s way right now. From their examples, we can find something to believe in.
At the Travis Manion Foundation we celebrate the character and selfless nature of our veterans every day. We challenge everyone with the rally cry, “If not me, then who…”
If you want to thank our veterans and service members, then ask yourself that question and go forward to make a difference in your community.
So many veterans set the example for others. They have served proudly, and they have continued to make an impact for others since they came home.
Captain Brian Stann was serving in Iraq when his unit was ambushed during Operation Matador. He and his Marines held out for six days under heavy attacks while coordinating air and tank support. All 42 Marines in Stann's platoon survived, and he was awarded the Silver Star for his leadership and actions under fire.
Stann left the Marine Corps in 2008, but he’s still making a difference. He leads Hire Heroes USA, a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga., that creates job opportunities for veterans and their spouses through personalized employment training. Thanks to Hire Heroes, between 30 and 60 veterans have been hired every week this year.
After 9/11, Kevin Mencio left his VP job at Goldman Sachs on Wall Street to enlist in the Army. Kevin was a natural leader who directed many security patrols in Iraq, and he befriended many soldiers in his unit. One was Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams, who asked Kevin to take care of his wife, Sonya, and his daughter, Amaya, if he didn’t return home.
Jesse didn’t make it home, and Kevin kept his promise. He started the Team Jesse Foundation to support not only Jesse’s wife and daughter, but to help other veterans and their families as well.
Sgt. Jake Wood served in the Marines for four years, with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Scout Sniper. He earned multiple commendations for his actions in combat.
Jake left the Marine Corps in 2008 and went on to start Team Rubicon, a veterans’ service and disaster response organization. Under Jake’s leadership, Team Rubicon has made an impact globally, rallying service members with unique skills to answer the call to disasters around the world.
These veterans are just a few of so many who continue to make an impact. They answer the “If not me, then who…” call to action.
So when we pause to reflect and thank these proud Americans for their service this Veterans Day, we should thank them not only for the sacrifices they have made, but also for the leadership and inspiration they are giving our country today and for generations to come.
Col. Tom Manion, is co-author of "Brothers Forever: The Enduring Bond between a Marine and a Navy SEAL that Transcended Their Ultimate Sacrifice," an account of the friendship, lives and deaths of 1st Lt. Travis Manion and Lt. Brendan Looney. He is a board member of the Travis Manion Foundation.