Over the years I have had the distinct pleasure of sharing many of my own personal thoughts and observations with audiences both big and small—individuals of all ages allowing me to present a particular message on their time. Not only have I found these numerous experiences most gratifying and humbling all in the same breath; I recently experienced one of those special moments of pure emotion that overwhelmed me as I saw through my own eyes the sheer strength of courage in the faces of many.
When I was escorted into the unit’s training room, I knew what my instructions were: Do your best to encourage and inspire the young men and women who place their lives on the line for our country each day. Keep your remarks within an hour and do what you do best. To be honest, I felt in awe of the task at hand as I stepped in front of the Soldiers of 86th Combat Support Hospital (CSH) based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
“Soldiers,” Chief announced, “This gentleman is here today to speak to you about teamwork and leadership. Give him your complete and undivided attention!” With those words of introduction, I had the distinct honor of taking part in a dialogue with individuals who might have begun their journeys in different locations, but who all arrived at the same place. A place where freedom is on the minds of many and the hope of world peace is never lost.
“I would like to begin my presentation today by simply saying these two words: Thank you! Thank you for the sacrifices you have made so that our freedom is secure and the example of peace is front and center for the whole world to see.” Those were the words, or close to them, that I expressed as I started speaking and then listening to those who wanted to share their thoughts and ideas alongside their fellow comrades.
For those 60 or so minutes, I was in a place I am sure I had never been before; witnessing emotions of joy and sadness, then strength and determination—expressions on faces that were ever so transparent, then impenetrable. Teamwork and leadership were the primary focus of my remarks on that day, but as various accounts and observations were volleyed back-and-forth an even greater realization came to the forefront: No matter whether you and I agree or disagree with the conflicts and struggles that our armed forces are so valiantly involved in, and regardless of which side of the aisle you are on; each and every day we wake up in a country that extends us the right to exercise our freedoms and to do it with great passion and belief.
In all the years I have presented professionally, I have never had the privilege to stand in front of those wearing our American flag sewn onto the right shoulder of their uniforms. The presence of values such as loyalty, duty, respect, service, honor, integrity and personal courage captured my complete attention. Looking directly into the eyes of heroism, standing before individuals willing to lay down their lives to protect my safety and the safety of my countrymen, seeing the person, not just the abstract idea of our armed forces, gave me a much greater appreciation of the sacrifices those in service to our nation make every day.
Since being constituted as an evacuation hospital in 1928 and activated as part of the regular army in 1944, the 86th CSH has provided world-class health care in support of our service men and women all over the world. Deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Restore Democracy, Joint Guardian, Strong Support and Enduring Freedom this special group of souls has traveled the world with a great deal of responsibility strapped to their backs. Today, the 86th is proud of its support relationship with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Thanks to the Soldiers of the 86th and every other man and woman in each branch of our military, the foundation of our fight for justice has stood the test of time and will continue, as long as there is the strength of many who believe in freedom and peace as our American Military does. I salute the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.