I have a privilege once a year.
Our School of Entrepreneurship brings in 42-25 vets, many of them wounded where you can see it, and a few where you have to talk to them for a while before the wound(s) are obvious.
I get to walk through their Hermann Brain Dominance Instruments with them. I have learned a few things over the past four years after a 160 in depth encounters and conversations.
A lot of people pay for us to fly these vets in from across the country and allow them to drink from a fire hydrant for eight days, and go home to continue launching their businesses. What did I learn from that?
I have never seen a more grateful group. The vets who return home and find people who invest in them simply because they served our country are almost all overcome, some to tears, that someone would say “Thank you” so clearly. Find concrete ways to express your sentiments, or your simply sentimental.
It is weird for them to come home and see what a small part of our lives that the war actually plays. One vet cited some grafitti in Falujah that is in English and reads: “America is not at war. America is at the mall.” For these who have been in harm’s way, buried friends, not seen families consistently for a year or four, had friends commit suicide on returning home, or who are rebuilding their body without legs after an IED took their legs and a friend — it is hard. Thank them when you see them. Make it a little less weird, if not a little easier.
They have a variety of opinions about Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet, and yet they went and served.
They defy categorization. I have seen their test scores, and they are as different as night is from day, all over the mental and personality map, and this sounds trite: unique. Don’t stereotype them.
If the governmental rationale to take the fight with militants, terrorists, and jihadists from New York’s trade center to their neighborhoods has a shred of sense, the least I owe the vets is a small thank you for fighting somewhere besides my neighborhood. Thanks for living the horror 24/7 for a tour or four so that neither me nor my family has to fight in our neighborhood, nor lose sleep over who hates us vehemently every night, all night.
Something else is curious about them. They are more likely to succeed in launching their businesses than “civilians”. I can’t help but wonder if slogging through failures that are constant in war, directives that are questionable but demand your absolute obedience of orders, and above all, some sense of owing your best if not your life to your team — does not uniquely qualify them for a higher degree of success in entrepreneurship.
This year I did better. I only had to turn away from one man who I got to speak to at the first banquet, and after hearing his dream for producing athletic wear and patting him on one of his two leg prostheses, I had to look away to wipe my tears. Then I was able to hear his dream for his business.
Churchill said it and we forget it at our peril.
“Never have so many owed so much to so few.” We can be at the mall because they gear up to explore the halls of valor. Find concrete ways to express thanks.