We all Struggle
In late 2009 I received a call from my great-nephew. He said; “Uncle Bobby, I think I’m going to join the Army. I’ve always wanted to do it. Since you did it I want to talk to you about it.”
We had a lengthy conversation about his choice and I was proud that my example had guided him to do the same for his own journey.
Joining the Army was his way of doing what we all want in life – we want our story to matter.
He enlisted in December of 2009. The following July, he arrived at his duty station in Fort Sam Houston, TX. We talked occasionally, and he would share exciting things he was learning. He was a Radio Operator and he was getting the opportunity to work on Beyond The Horizon projects in Guatemala and Panama. BTH is a humanitarian and civic mission deploying U.S. military engineers and medical professionals to provide humanitarian services.
I could feel his pride when he shared his stories with me. He was a giver and these missions made him feel like he was part of something bigger than himself. He knew I could relate to his excitement because of my own experience in the Army. I told him I was proud of him and encouraged him to enjoy the unique opportunity he had. He was a long way from his hometown of El Paso, TX and even further from the kid he was when he enlisted in 2009.
Every Struggle teaches us Something – The Gift
We all want to take control of our story. I had a special connection with Nalito. I babysat him on occasion in college. A favorite memory is busting him running his finger through our cake at our wedding.
Nalito was on his 3rd BTH deployment building a school for children in need in Los Limones, Guatemala when he died suddenly in a training exercise on April 22nd, 2014. I vividly remember how sad I felt when I was told. I hurt even more for the hole this left in his Mom’s heart and the pain his 2 brothers felt. The sadness peaked when we attended his burial ceremony and felt the collective heartache of his military family. Words can’t describe the experience.
Nalito’s story ended too soon. And like many other Veterans who have paid the ultimate price on our behalf, we’ll never know the collective good he would have done.
His struggle to become to person he imagined and to be a part of something bigger than himself gave us all a very important gift in the form of a question:
Am I giving more than I’m taking?
It also teaches us how precious our time is and how quickly our stories can change.
Leadership is Sharing the Gifts
What we can do to honor those who gave the ultimate gift, their story? We must model their courage by giving more than we take and by doing what matters most in our hearts. Nalito’s story ended while giving. The proud members of our military give every day on our behalf.
Become a Student of Struggle
Self-assess if you Give > Take:
- Am I doing all I can to become the person I imagine?
- What gives me meaning and how am I living that story?
- How am I helping others take control of their story?
Veterans give better than anyone. I share Nalito’s story because I want us to imagine the possibilities when we all live our lives the way he did.
All Hail the Volunteer!