Those Left Behind

Iwo 9-11As many of you may already know, my sister was deployed to Kuwait last year. She had originally signed up for military service after 9/11.  Living in a bedroom community of NYC, my family and I still clearly remember that day in 2001 and how helpless we all felt watching the same horrific images over and over again on the TV.

Not long after, my sister found her way of addressing that sense of helplessness and became the official property of the U.S. government.  With three years of active service behind her, she was ready to get back to her own life.  A couple of years later, the government had second thoughts.  They informed her days just before Christmas in 2008 that her services were required once more.  So, back into action she went; putting her life, career and future plans on hold so that you and I could appreciate the freedoms we each have and often risk taking for granted.

Just days after 9/11, we saw communities band together, strangers helping one another without fear or expectation of reward.  A Romanian reporter, Mr. Cornel Nistorescu, said it best in his “Ode to America:”

What on earth can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their galloping history? Their economic Power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases with the risk of sounding commonplace.

I thought things over, but I reached only one conclusion…

Only freedom can work such miracles.

True leadership means stepping up and doing what needs to be done when no one else is willing or able to do so.  It means focusing on the greater good, and sometimes taking on onerous tasks we would much rather avoid.  It means sacrificing our time, our talents and, sometimes, our lives.  When people are running out of burning building, true leaders run inside of it to bring out the last man.  If you are content with the “status quo,” don’t aspire to be a leader.  Leaders bring change and they make a difference.  There’s no room for the “status quo” there.

Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and ages.  Having seen an unmet need, the Bangor Troop Greeters, Bill Knight, Joan Gaudet, and Jerry Mundy transform their lives and the lives of others by greeting U.S. troops at a tiny airport in Maine.  On call 24/7 for the past 6 years, this group of senior citizens is showing true leadership by ensuring that every troop passing through the Bangor airport en route overseas or returning home receives a personal greeting, no matter what time of the day or night they are passing through.  To date, they have spoken with nearly one million soldiers, helping them along their way.  Just this past week, my sister had the pleasure of being greeted by Jerry as she returned home from overseas.  As with so many others, he gave her a friendly welcome, offered her a cell phone to call loved ones, and let her know how much her service was valued.  (For more information about the Bangor Troop Greeters, I highly recommend watching a documentary called “The Way We Get By.”)

A full year after she left to report for duty, my sister is home again.  We are delighted to have her back in our midst, and thankful for her time of service.  As Memorial Day approaches, take some time to think of the freedoms you enjoy here as an American citizen.  Whether you agree with the War on Terror or not, think of the sacrifices being made on your behalf so that you can have your own opinion and voice it freely.  Those sacrifices are being made by soldiers, their families, their friends, and their employers.  And those same sacrifices have been made time and time again throughout American history to ensure that we retain the freedoms we now have.  Rather than standing around the water cooler, complaining about the way things are in this country, these leaders have generously paid the way for us.  So, be sure to take a few minutes out to thank them.  Our soldiers and veterans deserve it!