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My great-uncle with his flight crew

In my earliest Medium story, I spoke about my remembrance of my grandparents’ service as members of the Greatest Generation. I grew up hearing stories of the experiences these two ancestors had in the China-Burma-India Theater, my grandmother as a M.A.S.H. nurse (and officer) and my grandfather as a 1st Sergeant with the Army Corps of Engineers as they built the Ledo Road. It’s where I absorbed my earliest techniques for storytelling for leadership, not to mention cooking marinara sauce and meatballs.

Military is something of a family affair: my grandmother’s two brothers were also enlisted men, and my uncle retired after a decades long career in service and journeyed on to other pursuits. Over the course of my professional life, while I never joined any of the branches, I seemed to attract numerous colleagues from all four. As I’ve spoken with them during the years, a few ideas have surfaced as a result of their musings.

Honor. This is the the highest form of commendation you can receive as a military person, and it is also the highest form of respect available between two uniformed individuals. It is also the leading characteristic dignitaries and statesmen ought to represent as they exercise their office.

Legacy. This is beyond what is conquered, or trained, or quantity of machines of war. Rather, quite literally, the dictionary definition: what did you leave behind? Instead of uniquely focusing on destruction, what have you built? Can you take all of those battle lessons, all of that methodology on strategy and tactics, and figure out how to map a pathway towards good and peace?

Memory. Battle causes losses. Remember the fallen. Respect their memory. Remember where you came from. Not just your genealogy, but every step through every hardship that led you to where you’re standing right now. Remember the promises you made. Remember promises that were made to you. And remember, like Winston Churchill said: If you’re going through Hell, keep going!

Given my list of writings, I’m sure readers might have expected me to wax philosophical on leadership. Each of the items in this listicle are leadership traits and, after today, we can exchange thoughts on how they can also fit into a project plan. But today, on Memorial Day, we remember those who went before us, we honor their memory, by continuing their legacy. Build, honor each other, and remember your promises.

Leadership is hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

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