I am violating an ought-not in my leadership seminar today. I am typing and publishing an emotional e-mail and blog. I always suggest placing these in the draft folder overnight, but not this one.
I just returned from one of the most emotional experiences of my life. I’ve seen it on TV and read about it, but today I truly experienced it. On August 28, 2013, U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Ricardo Young, 34, of Rosston, Arkansas was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan.
Today, September 13, 2013, his body was flown in to the Hope Municipal Airport. Businesses and individuals were encouraged to come to the airport, procession route and funeral to pay their respects to Sergeant Young and his family. Police officers, deputies, fire fighters and EMS personnel stood at attention while a number of bikers from the Patriot Guard Riders and the local chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association encircled the area holding flags as Sergeant Young’s flag draped coffin was removed from the plane.
Sandy and I went to the airport and also followed the procession through my hometown of Hope, Arkansas. I have never felt so many different emotions in 45 minutes. Upon our arrival at the Hope Airport, I felt proud of all the people that came to pay their respects. My father was a veteran and if he were alive, he would’ve been there. I was so proud of my country.
Next were sadness and compassion as they brought the flag covered casket from the plane. These continued as I heard the emotions of family members during a short service at the casket. Their tears were joined by mine even though I was 50 yards away and had never met their son, her husband, her brother or their dad. My tears increased as I remembered that Sgt. Young was the same age as my oldest daughter. I couldn’t imagine knowing my child had been killed on the other side of the world and I had been powerless to protect or go to them.
As we followed the procession back through town, pride came back. I was so proud of my hometown of Hope, Arkansas. There were thousands that lined the route through town. The schools along the route allowed all students to line the street. There were even school buses from surrounding towns. Sandy and I wished our grandsons could’ve witnessed this. Those grade school students may never forget this. What a tribute.
As we pulled over after riding through town, different emotions hit me; Anger and Disappointment.
In 2011, I wrote a song honoring our Military, Fire and Law Enforcement. It is titled “With What They Died For”. I have been honored to perform this on KATV and other programs to honor our veterans.
After airing on KATV on 11-11-11, a viewer ordered 550 copies of the song. She was on a mission. In memory of her uncle killed in the Korean War, she individually mailed a copy of the song to all 535 members of Congress and the President. She wanted each one of them to answer the question in the song; “Are you proud of what you’ve done with what they died for?” She received one response out of the 536 CD’s she mailed.
You and I have very little control over any war that is fought or most of what goes on in this country. What we do have control of is ourselves. We can change things in our lives and our elected officials can change things in our country. I’m not talking politics. I’m talking about each one of us taking personal responsibility and accountability of our lives and holding those we elect fully accountable.
No matter what our party affiliation, for you and I to vote for a person that is against the values we believe in, disrespects the memory of Sgt. Young and every soldier, fireman and law enforcement officer that has given their life to serve us. I have never had a job or assignment where my life was in jeopardy during the process of performing that job or assignment but they do.
Thank you for your service Sgt. Young and my prayers go out to your family.
As I followed a fallen hero through Hope Arkansas today, I didn’t see Democrats, Republicans, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, males, females, Christians or Non-Christians lining the streets.
No, what I saw was a group of Americans. I saw a group of Americans united in cause, honor and respect. Friends, when that occurs, we are hard to beat.
Greg Gilbert conducts a program titled “The Power Of Better” at meetings and conferences around the country. “Mr. HR With A Guitar” also adds to these programs with content and humor. He is developing professional managers and supervisors through the basics of Education, Engagement and Accountability.
Visit www.GregGilbertCoaching.com for more information.