Courage Under Fire
Early July 1863….
154 years ago, the largest military conflict in North American history began when Union and Confederate forces collided at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The epic battle lasted three days and resulted in a retreat to Virginia by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
Throughout my military career, and even still today, I am an avid consumer of military history. When it comes to the Battle at Gettysburg I have continually been awed by the decisions and actions of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. I have read Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel “The Killer Angels” and watched Jeff Daniels remarkably play Chamberlain in the movie “Gettysburg.” However it was not until I had the privilege of taking a group of my Marines to the actual battlefield that I truly understood this tragic conflict.
Together we climbed the slope of Little Round top and walked the path of Pickett’s Charge. We studied the defensive positions on Cemetery Hill and continually discussed the decision making of opposing Generals Lee and Meade. From human factors to combined arms, we immersed ourselves in the significance of this three day battle.
During a moment of reflection on the hallowed ground of Little Round Top, I paused to think about the decisions Chamberlain had to make. Against all odds, he stubbornly and courageously rallied his forces. Many historians claim his actions saved the day and possibly turned the tide of the Civil War. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation simply stated: “For daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on Big Round Top.”
It has been seven years since I was last at Gettysburg. I no longer view Chamberlain’s actions through the lens of a fighter leader. I now view his actions through the lens of a father leader. The battlefield I must now protect and hold is called my home. At stake is the hearts and minds of my wife and children.
The world will continually tell my wife and children lies about their identity.
They will be continually be presented with expectations that drown their worth.
They will continually be attacked….
But like Chamberlain I will not back down. I will continue to love, lead and serve well. I will continue to point them to the Father who created us for His glory.
I have always been amazed at how one man can change the course of a battle. Husbands and Fathers….more than ever before, I believe it is our duty to now do so.
Will you join me?
Hunting and Life Lessons
I love the outdoors – fishing, hiking, riding 4 wheelers, I could go on….but I especially like hunting. When Liz and I first got married I remember talking about taking our kids hunting. I couldn’t wait for that day. We even named our first child Hunter! (I can also share with you offline how Liz vetoed my recommended name for our second son). Well God has been especially generous; we now have two young boys who are roosted on our family tree and are already bearing camo-clad fruit on the branches of our heritage as hunters.
Each year we take at least one hunting trip with my father in law. The boys love hunting with their Dad and their Grandy; while my father in law and I simply love spending time with the boys. This past week we completed this annual tradition again. As we have now returned from our week in the woods I begin reflecting on the lessons hunting teaches my kids (and all of us).
Stay in Your Stand: Sometimes you see deer, sometimes you don’t. Patience and endurance is KEY. The longer you are willing to wait, to stay in your stand, the better your chances of having a successful hunt. Hunting teaches us that a lack of patience and endurance bears little fruit.
For my boys, there will be a day in their future when they will stand before a beautiful young lady and vow to be her husband. I hope they remember, like their deer stand, they should not climb out of it. There will be great times and there will be tough times. Hopefully they will remember, “Stay in Your Stand.”
Or maybe like me, they may find themselves standing in an airport about to board another flight for another tour in Iraq or Afghanistan and thoughts of “why am I doing this again?” pops in their head. Hopefully they will remember, “Stay in Your Stand.”
Stay Awake: Last week I read an article in a hunting magazine that stated the #1 reason why hunters are typically unsuccessful is that they fall asleep during key moments of the hunt. I personally know how hard it is to stay awake. Arriving in the woods before sunrise and sitting still for hours is the perfect recipe for a nice nap. Add some cold weather and bundles of warming layers and even the best hunter is tempted to close his eyes for a moment. In its most raw ways, hunting teaches us that comfort based decisions are costly and rarely produce results.
I want my young men to know that there will be many times after a long day at work that they will want to go home and rest, to check out for a while…however their wives and kids will require time and attention. I hope they seize the moment to spend time with their family.
Throughout their life, I hope they put aside personal comfort for the sake of others. Hopefully they will remember, “Stay Awake.”
Know Where to Aim: The first thing we always do during our hunting trips is conduct some refresher training. We go over gun safety rules, the hunting laws (what we can and can’t shoot), and most importantly, when the right time comes, knowing where to aim. Anyone can shoot a gun, but knowing where to aim and how to hit your target makes a successful hunter.
As both my boys go through life I want them to have a crystal clear focus on where to aim. The world will present cheap targets with brief, momentary satisfaction. My prayer is that throughout the struggles and setbacks, the successes and victories, that my boys will always keep their aim on Christ and Christ alone.
There will be a day when both my boys sit in a deer stand alone….no longer needing me to supervise or assist. They will be able to make their own hunting decisions. The clock is also ticking toward that day when they pull out of the driveway and into manhood. Among the many things I hope they remember forever, I’ll add the simple hunting principles of “Stay in Your Stand, Stay Awake, and Know Where to Aim.”
Family Core Values
In my previous organization, we had a list of 3 core values: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. As Marine leaders, we consistently led numerous discussions on how these values were lived out and demonstrated by individual Marines and collectively as a warfighting organization. More importantly, we were expected to model them on a daily basis.
Realizing the importance of core values in my “job” solidified the need for my family to define our own set of values. Over time and after much prayer and discussion we came up with five.
Our Core Values are:
Prayer with Expectation
Truth with Compassion
Scripture with Application
Generosity without Reciprocation
Leadership with Humility
(*I’ll save future blog posts to describe each one and why they are important to us*)
The purpose behind defining your family core values is not to have something nice to put in a frame or hang on the fridge, but a clear list of values that drive your decision making and provide focus for how you “do life.” To paraphrase author and leadership consultant Will Mancini, core values are the shared convictions that guide our actions and reveal our strengths. Simply put, they should be a constant reminder of what is important to your family.
When you don’t know or you haven’t clearly defined your values, you end up drifting along in life. Instead of basing your decisions on an internal compass, you make choices based on circumstances and social pressures. Conversely, when your family’s core values are clearly defined the benefits are numerous:
- Provides a framework to make individual and family decisions
- Helps ensure unity
- Makes life simpler because it frees you to say “no” to certain things and “yes” to better things
- Most of all: core values allow you to do more of what you do best!
Your family already has a certain set of core values….maybe you just haven’t clearly defined them yet. They are underneath the surface of your daily activities. Your role as a leader in your home is to pull them above of the waterline. The more your family knows about itself, the better it’s able to deal with life. Trust me… there’s something about actually writing down your values that makes you more committed to living them out!
My Son’s First Date
In mid-August 2010, at the ripe old age of 5, my oldest son went on his first date. He approached me about a week prior and told me of his intentions. I agreed but offered a few simple rules for him to follow:
#1. Be a gentle-man. Open the door. Give sincere compliments. Have good table manners. Always be characterized by the needs of others before your own.
#2. Make eye contact and listen. Show her she is important by paying attention to her. Truly listening to her shows respect.
#3. Pick up the check. The guy doesn’t always have to pay for everything; however on the first date he should. Not only is this polite it also sets the tone for his understanding of his future role as provider. (Disclaimer: Due to strict child labor laws, Hunter was limited on his ability to generate any income so I spotted him a few bucks. Liz also had to help him figure out the tip but overall he did a good job.)
As our boys mature, Liz and I will have additional conversations with them about boundaries (physical and emotional), about leadership and intentions, and plenty about respect and purity. More important than all these conversations is the example that I provide. How I treat their Mom will set the tone for how they view women. Through my words and actions, for better or worse, I will teach them what respectful behavior is.
One day each of my boys will fall in love with a beautiful young lady and begin an exciting new chapter in their book of life; however Chapter One will be always be dedicated to the first girl they ever loved…their Mom.
My Grandmother and a Delta Force Commander
In his best-selling book, The Mission, the Men, and Me, Pete Blaber, a former Delta Force Commander, describes his 3M thought process and priorities when confronted with a different or complex situation.
He describes the first (M) as the mission. This is your organization’s purpose for existing. It should guide everyone’s actions, decisions, and convictions.
The second (M) is the men. These are the individuals in your organization who will bear upon their shoulders the responsibility of accomplishing the unit’s mission. You must lead them but you must also listen to them. More importantly, as Blaber makes clear, the most important way you can take care of your people is by having the moral courage to do what is right by them.
The last (M) is me. The final (M) comes last for a reason. A true leader will always put his/her organization’s mission and people before their own well-being or advancement. As Blaber states, “you have to take care of yourself, BUT only after you have taken care of the mission and the men.”
Although Blaber’s leadership priorities are founded and practiced in a military environment, I believe these principles can also be applied to leadership outside of the military as well. In fact, I witnessed this style of leadership long before I ever joined the military…..from my Grandmother.
A blog post would not do justice to the life of selfless service my Grandmother has demonstrated. Under the roof of her home, she has raised 4 daughters, multiple grandchildren, and currently even a great-grandchild. After a stroke took the mind and part of the body of my Grandfather, I watched as she cared for him with the same love and commitment as newlyweds.
What do my Grandmother and a Delta Force Commander have in common? A leadership style based upon the shared experiences of sacrifice. A life of putting the goals of the organization or family first.
What about you? If one was to assess the priorities of your leadership would it truly be:
- The mission
- The men
- Then me
We All Have Super Powers: Part One
This is the first in a series of three posts on the different types of super powers we all have. My definition of a super power: the ability to shape the life of others….for better or worse.
This past Memorial Day weekend my family got to spend time with some of our best friends. Between our 2 families we had 6 kids under the age of 10 running around our home. A portion of our time together was spent creating new super hero names for each kid and identifying their corresponding super powers. When I watched our children imagine different types of creative superpowers, I think about how we as adults fail to realize the powers we can actually yield….the powers to shape the life of others….for better or for worse.
Super Power #1: The Power of Words
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” – Mother Teresa
As children we all heard the rhetoric, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Really? Let’s not kid ourselves. Words are potent. They can build and they can destroy. I once read that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing your family, team, or organization in many ways, directly and indirectly.
Many years ago as a young platoon commander, I worked with a Marine originally from India. He and his family moved to the U.S. at an early age and he decided as a junior in high school to serve his country. During one of our many conversations about his childhood in India, he shared with me a Hindu word, “Genshai” – his translation – never treat others in a way to make them feel small.
Our discussion reminded me that the importance and power of one’s words is noticed across all cultures. Coming from one’s parent, spouse, friend, or leader, a positive word provides inspiration. It builds confidence, initiative, and trust. Most importantly it builds courage. Courage to do what’s right. Courage to try new ideas. Courage to make your family, team, or organization better!!
As a spouse, parent, or leader, how are you leveraging the power of your words?
I offer the following three daily challenges to you (think Public, Private, Protect):
(1) Public: Publicly speak a work of encouragement / praise to one of your family or team members in front of others.
(2) Private: Privately drop an email or note to one of your people thanking them for their hard work and encouraging them in their efforts.
(3) Protect: Protect your family and your team from the damage that your words may cause…..hold your tongue when angry, frustrated, or tired….you’ll never regret it.
Like all super powers, the power in your words can build or destroy. Use them wisely!
2 Things I Say To My Kids Everyday
A few days ago I read an article titled “10 Things to Say to Your Kids Everyday.”
It was a well written article with a positive, encouraging message.
Like the author of the article, I believe in providing my boys with a positive message each day. However when it comes to what they remember me saying each day I hope they will know in their heart two things…..two really important things.
#1: “I Choose You”
Our daily exchange, typically at night, goes like this:
Me: “Drew, if I had every 8 year old boy in the world lined up, who would I choose to be my son?”
Drew: “You would choose me!”
The purpose of this conversation is to ensure they undoubtedly know they are chosen, loved, and accepted.
Greater than ever before, our culture has created a need for acceptance. As my boys grow older and head out in to this world, I want them to always know they are chosen and accepted by those who love them most.
#2 : “You Are My Son”
Our conversation goes like this:
Me: “Hunter, why do I love you?”
Hunter: “Because I am your son.”
As their Dad, one of my most important duties is to ensure they undoubtedly know that their Mom & Dad’s love is in no way tied to performance….performance in a class room, performance on a ball field, performance in life. I love them simply because they are my sons.
Why do I have these two specific conversations with my boys each day?
Because as a child of God, I do not have to compete with others for His love.
Because as a child of God, my identity in Christ is never tied to my own performance.
Because as a parent, it is my responsibility to reflect the image of God in my home.
If you have children, develop your own messages. Speak truth into their life.
Do this every day; and make them count.
First Blog Post – Inspiration
I have already been asked, “Why do you want to start a blog? What’s your inspiration?”
It’s simple but overwhelming.
I am a Follower of Christ, Husband, Father, Pastor, Marine, and Friend. The main purpose of my blog is to share my experiences in each of these roles as they relate to leadership and life.
I am conscious of the imperfections of my efforts in each of these roles – but my motivation is clear – to provide others a glimpse of the lessons I have learned with the hope they can in turn build better families, marriages, and friendships.
I once read that the lives of great men are an inspiration to the young. I am by no means great, however the responsibility to inspire the young (my two boys specifically) still remains.
I look forward to the challenge!