I’m Grateful for You

The Character-Based Leader - Tara Alemany https://alewebsocial.com

The Character-Based Leader is available on Amazon and on our website. For a copy autographed by me, purchase the book here.

This may seem a bit unusual for my typical posts, but indulge me for a bit if you will. It’s been an unusual past few days for me, and the things I was reminded of through them may resonate with you as well. If you can learn anything from my experiences, even better!

Last week, I was pleased to participate in a book launch that was huge and very personal for me. I had co-authored a book with 20 other authors called The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution… One Person at a Time. This book is incredible; unusual from any other book I’ve ever read because it is the collective vision of multiple authors all writing in a single voice, sharing the same message, each in their own unique way. Character counts in leadership, we say. And leadership today is sorely lacking in good character, but we each have it within ourselves to make a difference.

That’s not all that makes the book unique though. This collaboration was 100% virtual. Although I have come to know and love many of my co-authors through social networks, e-mail, video chats and phone calls, I have not met a single one of them in real life yet. Tomorrow, I will meet the first when Will Lukang joins me for a book signing event.

I tackled two distinct but related subjects in The Character-Based Leader, intentionality and perseverance. I wrote about how the choices we make reflect who we are in life. If you want to live an impactful life, you have to live purposefully. And I shared about how purpose leads to vision, which is one of the four key elements to perseverance. Without vision, there’s no justification to persevere.

As the book was launching, I told my mother that I had a feeling that when I looked back at the end of my days, this book was going to be one of the accomplishments I was most proud of. Little did I think at that time that my days might be numbered on one hand. [Read more…]

We Wrote a Book — And the Miles It Took to Get There!

The Character-Based Leader - Tara Alemany https://alewebsocial.comWhen the idea was first brought up early in 2011 for the Lead Change Group to write a book, we had no idea what we were getting into. There was some thought that with a large group of contributors, we could go from concept through writing, editing and publishing in three or four months.

Ultimately, twenty-one of us got on the bandwagon and committed to the project. As time drew on, some of the original participants had to drop out due to other constraints on their time. But the vision persisted and the project moved forward.

No one in their wildest imaginings could have anticipated that this project would ultimately take over 16 months to complete.

Can you imagine the consequences of a project at work that took 4 or 5 times longer than the planner had anticipated?!

Of course, none of us had the luxury of working on the project full-time. We all had other responsibilities, and progress was made much like that of a fire brigade. Each of us took as much or as little responsibility as we were able at any given time, and pitched in to the best of our abilities. When we needed to drop out of the line for a time, that was completely understood and respected by the rest of the team.

That’s the thing I love the most about my fellow Lead Change Authors. We made every effort to share one vision and use one voice, supporting a core belief that character-based leadership matters.

Individually, when we expound on what that means, you will get different responses, because each one is filtered through the lens of our own beliefs and experience. But in the end, we all believe that character-based leadership matters, and it matters significantly enough to spend countless hours dedicated to nothing more than birthing a book.

Today, this book has seen the light of day. And like the proud parents we are, we’re busy celebrating its launch, enjoying thecongratulationsof friends and family, feeling a bit tired, shaken and very relieved.

It’s been a long road to reach this point. It took more effort and heart than any of us ever imagined. Yet, now that we’re here, it all seems so very worth it.

What we’ve created is a book that’s inspiring. We’ve each made each other think in new and different ways about what it means to be a Character-Based Leader, and I hope that what we’ve shared will make you stop and think too.

What would happen in the world around you if you applied more character to your leadership? If you mentored your followers in more meaningful ways? If you reached out to help the people around you find their own way in the world?

What we’ve given you inThe Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution… One Person at a Time is a sampling of our own experiences. It tells of the strengths and weaknesses we’ve identified in ourselves as we’ve tried to become the changes we want to see in the world. We are flawed at times, but striving to improve.

It is my hope that as you read this book, you will be inspired by what we have shared to make your own difference in the world, in whatever way you are uniquely suited to do.

If you want to learn more about the book, you can purchase it on Amazon. If you’re interested in helping us promote the book, we have a Resources page filled with tweets and status updates we’d love for you to share. And if you’re interested in reading a free sample chapter, that’s available here.

Thanks for joining us on this journey!

A Leader’s Legacy

This was originally posted on the Lead Change Group’s blog on June 25, 2012. Reposted here as part of the Evangelical Seminary’s Leadership Synchroblog campaign.

Legacy - https://alewebsocial.comI have a friend who I think is pretty neat.He’s always got a smile on his face, laughs easily, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Kids love him. He’s a committed husband and Dad, as well as a humble man of faith. He makes learning new things fun, even when they’re challenging. He’s got a servant’s heart, yet is a strong leader, and he volunteers his time to his community and neighbors.

During a recent weekend trip with this friend and some others, I realized that everyone who knows him holds him in high regard. I’ve often wondered what people will say about me when I’m gone. (Strange, I know – but it’s part of being intentional about the legacy I want to leave.) It became apparent that my friend has been building his legacy for years already, and it’s a strong and solid one!

When it comes right down to it, though, haven’t we all?

The path we follow through this world intersects with others’ along the way. We make an imprint upon everyone we meet, no matter how large or small. When we hold a door open for someone else or send a friend a card for no reason, we are touching someone else’s life. It may not be the same impact as when you rescue someone from a burning building or help a child gain confidence, but we can’t go through life without affecting those around us.

And sometimes, it’s the small actions that have the biggest effect. Just plain being there when someone needs a friend, putting yourself in their shoes for a time, sharing simple words of encouragement and understanding – it all adds up to the legacy we leave.

What legacy areyouleaving as a person and a leader? Are you being intentional about it, or just letting it develop over time based on random acts and decisions you make? Better yet, does everyone you know hold you in high regard or are there relationships that need mending?

As leaders, we need to be aware of those around us, but more than that, we need to be aware of the effect we have on them by our actions and our inaction.

To become a leader with a legacy you can be proud of, here are a few action steps to point you in the right direction.

  • Imagine listening in at your own funeral. What do you want to hear people remember most about you? And what did you inspire people to aspire to? That’s going to become your goal.
  • Assess where you stand in relation to that goal now. If you need help with this, ask a trusted friend or mentor.
  • Identify what skills, characteristics and habits you need to start establishing now to more clearly achieve that goal.
  • Begin a program of self-improvement to better incorporate those behaviors into your life.
  • Periodically reassess both the goal and where you stand in relation to it.

We are works in progress until we die.Unfortunately, for most of us, we have no idea whether today’s the last day or if we have another year, 20 years or 50 years. Yet, a legacy waits for no one. We’re making one right now, whether we’re intentional about it or not. Is it something we can be proud of, or does it still need work?

The time to begin is today. What’s your legacy going to be?

What Does It Take to be a True Hero?

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They can be young or old, black or white, rich or poor. If you look up the word at dictionary.com, you’ll see this is the first definition:

a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

9/11 afforded many people the opportunity to look within themselves and find the hero within. We all have that quality within us. It’s that drive that enables us to put the needs of others before our own in times of trouble or sadness. That selflessness becomes a mark of maturity, demonstrating that we’ve learned a vital lesson. The world does not revolve around us.

Take a few minutes this day to watch this video, reflect upon it’s message and look within your own heart and mind.

The world needs more heroes. Where can you step up and make a difference in someone’s time of need? Whether it’s volunteering on your kid’s soccer team, mentoring a fatherless child, serving at a local soup kitchen, helping someone out financially, visiting with an elderly neighbor, or something completely different. When average people step up to fill a need, coming together and pulling together, they can accomplish amazing things.

As the narrator, Tom Hanks, shared:

The great boatlift of 9/11 became the largest sea evacuation in history, larger than the evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II, where 339,000 British and French soldiers were rescued over the course of nine days. On 9/11, nearly 500,000 civilians were rescued from Manhattan by boat. It took less than nine hours…

Don’t live your life wondering “Should I have?” And don’t wait for tragedy to strike to call up that inner hero. You have the ability to make the world a better place today.

I’d love for each of my readers to share whatever they’d like in the comments below, whether it’s their memories of how 9/11 affected them, or how they are inspired by this post and video to step up and commit letting their own inner hero loose. For those of us who lived through 9/11/2001, the world was forever changed. But we have it within ourselves to continue that change, embracing the spirit of self-sacrifice that made us proud to be Americans, to make a positive difference in our communities today.

Are you going to step up to the challenge?

On the Art of Becoming “Someone” on Twitter

Twitter engagement https://alewebsocial.comA friend asked recently:

My boss is interested in generating interest via twitter. I’ve “searched” his name and character’s name and “followed” people who are tweeting good stuff about him. How do you get people to follow you? How do you become “someone” on twitter? Thanks for any help you can offer.

Do you have similar questions? You’ve created a Twitter account, tweeted a few times, followed some interesting folks, but still haven’t figured out how to gain a following.

The easy answer is “engage them.” But that probably doesn’t really answer your question. “Engage who? And how?” you might ask.

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a fan of real, authentic engagement. So, you won’t find me “buying” followers, auto-responding, etc. While some of the links I share are pre-scheduled, they are created by me. Responses you get, you’re getting from me.

Now, I could sit in my office and wait for people to pass by (in my Twitter feed), and say “hi” as they march along. But that would become redundant and unfulfilling over time. Instead, I proactively strive to be useful to my followers. I go to where they are, rather than waiting passively for them to find me.

I once had a boss whom I loved. He didn’t just have an open door policy… He took it upon himself to take periodic breaks throughout his very long day and “wander among us.” He’d stick his head in at my door and ask how my day was going, if there was anything I needed to move forward on a project, etc. He wasn’t micro-managing. He was showing a genuine interest in me as a person and the work I was doing. As a result, he created a bond of loyalty that’s almost impossible to create in any other way.

So, how does this apply to building a Twitter following? Effectively using social media means applying the best leadership skills available; those that recognize people as individuals with unique interests, needs and skills. It means not only responding to people when you’re spoken to, but being willing to start conversations yourself and join conversations that are in progress already (if you have anything useful to add).

There are tools and techniques I use to make it easier to find those I want to build stronger bonds with, whether they are following me already or not. Here are just a few of them:

  • Participate in Tweetchats that catch your interest. Wouldn’t it be valuable to connect with others who share that interest? If you’re not familiar with Tweetchats, they are conversations that take place on Twitter, often at a specific time, using a given hashtag. (To learn more about hashtags, check out Hashtags Demystified.) Some of my favorites include #LeadChange, #LeadFromWithin, #BookPro, #SocMed and #SlumberParty.
  • Find the tools that work for you in filtering the information firehose that is Twitter. With over 2,000tps (tweets per second) going out on Twitter any given day, there’s just no way to take it all in. There are many tools out there to help you work your way through the fluff to the gems. A few of my favorites are Hootsuite, Bottlenose and InboxQ.
    • Hootsuite allows me to create Twitter streams filtered by those I follow or specific hashtags and keywords I’m interested in, as well as allowing me to post content to my own profiles immediately or on a schedule.
    • Bottlenose allows me to see which conversations my connections are currently engaged in. (It has a really neat sonar interface!)
    • InboxQ allows me to watch for people who are posting questions that I can answer. Thereby, allowing me to engage in conversations that may not even have gotten started yet!
  • Share relevant content with those that follow you. There are a few ways to find good content. You don’t have to create it all yourself. I use paper.li as a great way to curate relevant content from others, Twylah to share my own great content, and the bufferapp browser extension to share what I’m reading.
  • Use Twitter directories both to share about who you are, and to find people you may be interested in getting to know more. Some of the more popular are Twellow, WeFollow and TweetFind.

As you interact with people online that you like, follow them! If they enjoyed the conversation, they may follow you back. Keep in mind, as you strive to “be someone” on Twitter, that to be someone, you have to be real and authentic. Focus on growing relationships rather than making sales. As you do, you’ll find that sales come naturally as a result.

 

What are your favorite methods of growing your Twitter following? Please share them below!

8 Leadership Myths Dispelled | SmartBlogs

I had the pleasure of being invited recently to write a guest blog post on leadership for SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership.

I decided to share a bit about a recent experience I had, and to answer the question “what happens when you get 21 leaders together to work on a project?”

I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing just such a scenario over the past year, and the insights I’ve come away with defy certain myths about leaders.

Want to learn what they are? Check out the rest of the blog at 8 leadership myths dispelled | SmartBlogs.

Who Do You Give Back To?

I started following Dan Rockwell (@leadershipfreak) on April 30, 2010. I saw his Twitter ID listed among friends of mine from the Lead Change Group in a #ff tweet. After taking a look at his content, I knew he was someone I wanted to follow and learn from, and that others needed to hear what he had to share as well. So, I tweeted:

Leadershipfreak_tweet

Within the hour, Dan thanked me and let me know he was following me back. And so our conversation began…

That’s one thing that I love about using Twitter. Friendships develop, conversations ensue, and sometimes, just sometimes, our lives are touched.

When I first entered the Twitterverse, I did so on a whim with no real idea of what I was going to do with it. (This was during Ashton Kutcher’s competition with CNN Breaking News to see who could reach 1 million followers first, back in April 2009.) As a result, after creating my Twitter account, I didn’t do much of anything other than lurk and retweet. Then, as I was traveling to Tanzania as a missionary in June 2009, I thought it would be a great way of sharing my experiences while I was gone. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, that wasn’t possible.

It wasn’t until I returned home, and decided to spend some time figuring out the platform that I began making real connections on Twitter. First, there was Steve Keating (@leadtoday), whom I started following in January 2010. I was impressed with his bio, which said (and still does) that he’s not selling a thing on Twitter, only giving back. Then there were many others who followed. I found myself seeking out people who were positive, inspiring, uplifting, and had an “other” focus. We all need more givers than takers in our lives.

When I came across Dan, I recognized him as one of those people I wanted to surround myself with. But he opened my eyes to other possibilities for Twitter, which has since become my favorite social network, thanks to people like him.

Soon after we started following one another, he DM’d (direct messaged) me to say that he made a point of talking offline with the people he was meeting online, and would I be interested in talking by phone sometime? The online world of social media was still new to me, even though I was an eager student. But this was the first time I’d been part of what seems second nature now; taking an online connection and building an offline relationship.

While I was, at first, a little nervous during our phone call, it quickly became something easy and comfortable. I enjoyed learning about him, and sharing about myself. It was completely non-threatening and engaging, and I became fascinated with the potential of meeting new people who interested me. I live in a rural area of the country. As a single parent, I don’t get out much. So, being able to connect with people who share like beliefs, have similar interests and dreams, and who support and encourage one another is so very compelling to me.

Now, it’s my turn to give back to someone I care about, to support and encourage him where I can. Many of you may know that Dan was in a terrible car accident on November 20th. While it’s incredible that he survived it, what’s even more amazing is the grace, perseverance, gratitude and outward-focus he’s displayed this whole time. How many of us, at a time like this, would be tempted to slip into self-pity? Yet, Dan’s focus isn’t on himself, but on those he loves. He is a source of encouragement and inspiration to me, always.

One of the reasons I’m sharing about Dan today is because a source of anxiety for him is the medical bills that are anticipated to run around $30K in out-of-pocket expenses. This isn’t money he has just lying around. His work in the ministry and raising up leaders has been the treasure he’s stored up. To show our love and support for Dan, the Lead Change Group has been rallying around him to help raise funds to cover his expenses. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation, even if it’s only a few dollars. In 9 days, we’ve raised over $8,000 towards our goal, but there’s still a long way to go!

Take a minute, just one, and think about someone who inspires and encourages you. What lengths would you go to in order to help them? After you’ve done that, click on the image below, and give as generously as you feel led.

Time to Give Back to Dan


 

Book Review: “The Final Summit” by Andy Andrews

I first “discovered” Andy Andrews when he started following me on Twitter. (He’s @AndyAndrews.) Exploring his website led me to The Noticer Project, a nationwide movement to “notice” the five most influential people in your life. From that point onward, I was hooked on everything he did. I’ve since read all of his books, heard him speak in person, watched many of his videos, and always look forward to his next project. So, I was thrilled when his publisher, Thomas Nelson, gave me the opportunity to review his latest book.

The Final Summit book coverSo, let me ask you this… If you were able to travel through time meeting some of the greatest leaders throughout history, what would you hope to learn from them? In Andy’s book “The Traveler’s Gift,” the main character, David Ponder, gets just such an opportunity at the absolute lowest point in his life. Through the course of this New York Times bestseller, he meets King Solomon, Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, Columbus, Anne Frank, Joshua Chamberlain and the archangel Gabriel to learn The Seven Decisions for Success that shaped their lives.

David then spends the next 28 years applying The Seven Decisions to his life and business, benefiting himself, his family, and countless other people around him. His success hit a snag at one point, only to rise to even greater heights as he embraces Truman’s lesson that “Adversity is preparation for greatness.”

In the sequel, “The Final Summit,” David Ponder’s world has once again been shaken. His beloved wife, Ellen, suddenly and unexpectedly dies in her sleep, and he’s at a complete and total loss without her.

It’s at this point that David learns that all of history’s Travelers are being gathered together for one last summit meeting that he is to lead, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Centuries of greed, pride and hate have sent mankind hurtling towards disaster, and far from its original purpose. The question is simple, “What does humanity need to do, individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?” The answer? Only two words… But can the greatest minds in all of history find the right ones?

Hal Sutton, the PGA champion, describes the book this way: “Is it possible to mix C.S. Lewis, Alfred Hitchcock and Tony Robbins? The Final Summit is a unique and powerful blend of mystery and suspense, and principles and emotional fire. Wow! Bring your highlighter to this party. You’ll want to remember every word!”

I couldn’t agree more! As with the first book, I learned fascinating bits of history and the roles that specific individuals played in affecting the outcomes. But I also was led to explore my own thoughts and feelings about the very same topics that the book’s characters were wrestling with. Are leaders perfect? When they fail, are they still a great leader? How can one seemingly minor choice influence the course of history? Can the wisdom of the past unlock the secrets of success today? Are my day-to-day actions really all that significant? Do I agree with the Summit’s final answer?

The book is an easy and enjoyable read. (I received it on Friday and was finished on Sunday, and I did do other things this weekend besides read.) But it’s the kind of book that you’ll want to refer to over and over again, and it can only serve to guide you in your efforts to become a better leader and individual. So, I highly recommend reading “The Traveler’s Gift,” “The Final Summit” and, for a little extra practice, “Mastering the Seven Decisions.” You won’t be disappointed!

Interested in reading “The Final Summit?” Thomas Nelson has been kind enough to provide me with an extra copy to give to one of my readers. Leave a comment below with your two-word answer to the question “What do you do when you don’t know what to do?” and why you think it’s the right thing to do. You’ll be entered into our drawing to receive a free copy of “The Final Summit!” (The drawing will be on June 7th.)

Want to learn more about Andy and his life-changing books? Follow him on Facebook or visit his website.

“In reading about the lives of great people, I found that the first great victory most of them won was over themselves.” ~ David Ponder

From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership

If you’ve read my blog before, you’re aware that most of my posts have to do with growing your business. Past posts have talked about how to get found online, making connections with others in person or using social media, and the challenges of being an effective solopreneur. Since I’m also a contributing author for the Lead Change Group’s blog, you’ll sometimes see cross-over pieces touching on character-based leadership here as well.

In today’s post, these worlds collide and the result is Remarkable, if I do say so myself! Whenever I get to write about my favorite subjects at once and read a great book, it’s a win-win situation!

Kevin Eikenberry, a member of the Lead Change community, is launching his latest book “From Bud to Boss” tomorrow, and a request for reviewers went out a couple of weeks ago. Many of us in the community are helping to #buildthebuzz about this book using our collective blogging and social media talents.

Even if I wasn’t enthralled with the way this book is being marketed (which I am), this book is definitely one I’d recommend. Kevin and his co-author, Guy Harris, have created an instruction manual that belongs in the hands of every new leader on the planet (and in the hands of some more experienced leaders too).

“From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership” is that missing handbook for first-time leaders that comes alongside them and gently teaches them the things they need to know. Broken into six parts, the book covers topics such as succeeding in your transition to leadership, the nature of change, working with various communication styles, providing effective feedback and coaching, transforming groups into teams, and developing a commitment to success.

Remarkable Principles within the book highlight key points that often say more about human nature and life in general than specifically about leadership. These principles are worth taking note of, and stopping and pondering for a time. Kevin and Guy recommend keeping a journal as you read through the book, and these principles are good stopping places to make notes and visualize their application to specific circumstances you are faced with in your leadership role.

Bonus Bytes point to practical and immediately useful extras that can be found online related to the current topic. These may include checklists, tools, greater detail on a subject and more. These resources, coupled with the information in the book, go a long way towards providing you with the tools and resources you need to succeed in your new role.

But the thing I liked the most in the format of the book was that each chapter ended with Now Steps. These were actionable items that you could go and do now to improve your leadership. They were just a summary of points from the chapter, but instead, where additional items that took the chapter’s content one step further; helping you ingrain the lesson in your heart and mind.

The entire premise of the book is that you can successfully transition into your new leadership role, but that your goal shouldn’t be simply to be a leader. Instead, as you focus on becoming a Remarkable leader, you surmount many of the problems that other leaders get bogged down by. As you focus on controlling what you can and influencing who you can, you keep a proper perspective, riding the middle of the wake between tasks and people. This analogy refers to the two-sided wake that a boat leaves behind it. As you move towards either side of the wake, the waters are rougher. However, staying in the middle of the wake allows you to effectively use both edges of the wake to create Remarkable results in your team and for your organization.

If any of this sounds like information you could benefit from, I strong suggest that you pick up a copy of “From Bud to Boss” and being your journey to Remarkable leadership today! Visit the launch site on February 15th, and get some great bonus materials along with your book!

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!