One aspect of good leadership is to learn from and appreciate those leaders who have gone before us. Whatever your particular views are today, they need to be molded and tempered by the truths of people who have previously walked and fought. As American philosopher George Santayana stated: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
In this country, we have trivialized Memorial Day to another three day weekend. It’s the first day of summer. It’s a big sales day at the mall. It’s time to bring out the old barbecue grill. It’s the first day you “can” wear white. It’s time to hit the beach. We have pushed aside those people who sacrificed so much so we could have our way of life.
Start a personal tradition. When you are preparing your stack of reading for your summer season, may I suggest that you start with one of these books. You don’t have time? Sure you do. Get the audio book or mp3 and play it in the car going to work. But whatever you do, read one of these, and reflect on the lessons and sacrifices that these men and women have made for you.
We Were Soldiers Once and Young by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway
In November 1965, some 450 men of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Hal Moore, were dropped by helicopter into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. Three days later, only two and a half miles away, a sister battalion was chopped to pieces. Together, these actions at the landing zones X-Ray and Albany constituted one of the most savage and significant battles of the Vietnam War.
How these men persevered–sacrificed themselves for their comrades and never gave up—is an inspiring story and a must read.
We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway
The authors return to Vietnam’s Ia Drang Valley more than four decades after the battle they recalled in their first book. (See above) Renewing their relationships with ten American veterans of the fabled conflict—and with former adversaries—the authors explore how the war changed them all, as well as their two countries.
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice
Kyle’s riveting first-person account of how he went from Texas rodeo cowboy to expert marksman and feared assassin offers a fascinating view of modern-day warfare and one of the most in-depth and illuminating looks into the secret world of Special Ops ever written.
Chris Kyle served four combat tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom and elsewhere. For his bravery in battle, he was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation.
Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War by Dakota Meyer and Bing West
In the fall of 2009, Taliban insurgents ambushed a patrol of Afghan soldiers and Marine advisors in a mountain village called Ganjigal. Firing from entrenched positions, the enemy was positioned to wipe out one hundred men who were pinned down and were repeatedly refused artillery support. Ordered to remain behind with the vehicles, twenty-one year-old Marine corporal Dakota Meyer disobeyed orders and attacked to rescue his comrades.
This is his story.
“The story of what Dakota did . . . will be told for generations.”
—President Barack Obama, from remarks given at Meyer’s Medal of Honor ceremony
Living with Honor: A Memoir by Salvador Gunita and Joe Layden
Staff Sergeant Salvatore, “Sal,” Giunta was the first living person to receive the Medal of Honor—the highest honor presented by the U.S. military—since the conclusion of the Vietnam War. In Living with Honor, this hero who maintains he is “just a soldier” tells us the story of the fateful day in Afghanistan that led to his receiving the unique honor. With candor, insight, and humility, Giunta not only recounts the harrowing events leading up to when he and his company fell under siege, but also illustrates the empowering, invaluable lessons he learned.
No matter what your politics are, Memorial Day is a time to reflect the sacrifices that many men and women have given for our country. Take this time to give them honor.
“Only two people have ever offered to die for you.
One was Jesus Christ and the other is the American GI.
One died for your soul, the other died for your freedom.”
Question: Who are you remembering this Memorial Day? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
This was a guest post by TJ Trent. He is currently a Staff Sergeant in the US Army stationed in South Korea. He is married to LaShawn. They have a hairy four legged child named Roscoe P. Coltrane. You can read more from him on his blog BornTwoLead, or talk to him on Facebook, or Twitter