Thank you

Jill and I watched Band of Brothers last week.  Two a night.

It is one thing to think, “I have many, many people to thank so I could rest at ease today with my family.”  It is another thing to see their story told by Ambrose, Speilberg, and Hanks so poignantly — and then see the old men speak before each installment, who lived, fought and endured so much in battle, and in so many nightmares since.

Thank you.

To my wounded friends, who served in a war you may or may not have agreed with in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Your wounds, visible and not, make getting out of bed every morning a matter of courage.

Thank you.

To  you who minister, fight hunger and hopelessness for kids and people we feel hopeful for on Thanksgiving — and forget on Black Friday.

Thank you.

For you sweating the launch of your little business.  Your faith is stunning.  If people buy, you eat.  If not, you worry.

Thank you.

To you first responders who spend some time bored and the rest on the abyss of terror.  The EMTs, docs, and nurses as well who reach the end of technology and bite your lips in hope on any given night in the ER.

Thank you.

I can go on like this for a while.  And I should.  And so should you.

Thank you is not an emotion.  It is something we invent a way to say to people who don’t do it for the praise, but will fight back tears on the day we demonstrate ours.

Many heroes need one of us to say, “Thank you, hero.”

Hebrews’ writer said: Invent ways to encourage one another to good works.  You know what is so cool about the book of Hebrews in the bible?  The writer is faceless, nameless, the object of much conjecture: just like the people I have to invent ways to thank.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Dining in an expensive room

I am in an expensive room. Sometimes I get to sit in such a room. We are in the closing ceremony for the Veteran’s Entrepreneurship Program (VEP).

The room has our twenty five veterans who we selected from hundreds of applicants, and they amaze and humble me. They have served around the world. They have paid high prices and some wear their wounds where we can see them, and all of them put their chins up and shoulders back and soldier on. They have taken prices they pay in stride for serving as a part of the contract. Honor to have served is the byproduct that none of these question. Camaraderie is thick in the air.

These people are competitive, but their sense is that they compete against the world, and they would not dare leave any of the group behind. Compete, indeed.

They cheer for each other. Loudly. Like family.

They all came in wondering if they had what it takes to be an entrepreneur. They all were grateful for the chance to come and participate; and they seem clueless as to how much of an honor it was for us to serve them, teach them, encourage them.

We listened to Matt, VEP alum from only a year ago, over 1,000 combat flying hours, and a new business selling family games in 1,000 stores. Humble, quiet, succeeding. He spoke quietly but clearly, “You can do this, as well.”

They have defended our country, and have asked a helping hand to learn how to build it, one company at a time.

So we sat in the same room tonight, the day before they scatter to the wind to their posts, homes, places of possibility. I sat and ate in a room alongside people who donated the money to fly them in, train them, house them, feed them, and watch them flourish before our eyes. Some donate because their son or daughter passed away on the “frontier of freedom”, giving their lives for us to sit here, free, blessed, misty-eyed, and proud. I sat with the vets who have seen the “frontier of freedom” and fought to preserve it for us, and paid prices unaskeimage.jpegd, carrying some of those costs for the rest of their lives.

I sat humbled. Okay, misty eyed. And I remembered what I have remembered at the monuments on the Mall in DC, in the national cemeteries, and at the funerals of a few heroes.

People have paid a lot for me to sit here. People have paid an incomprehensible amount for me to sit here and have this storm of emotions whispering to me, how blessed I am.

People who humble me.

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. 

We forget.  

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.