How will people remember you?

Ray Lambert died on April 9th at age 100. A Staff Sergeant during World War Two, he led a medical section in the 1st Infantry Division and is one of a few who found themselves in the first wave of the three major amphibious landings in the European Theatre: North Africa, Sicily, and Normandy.

“The only heroic thing I ever did,” Ray told me, “was to rescue a soldier from a burning tank.” His boss told him not to go because the tank was about to blow up. Ray went anyway, pulled the soldier off the tank, and scrambled into a ditch as the tank exploded. “I disobeyed an order, so I did not get an award.” Others who’ve done the same were awarded the Medal of Honor.

The intense fighting on Sicily affected him deeply. He was in the thick of it for the month-long campaign, grinding through the island’s mountainous spine against the best German units. He was awarded the silver star (America’s third-highest award for valor) after going into a minefield to rescue a wounded soldier.

Ray landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Coming ashore against intense enemy fire, Ray spotted a pile of concrete. “It was the only cover on the beach.” Ray used the slight shelter for a casualty collection point. He put one of his medics there and proceeded to bring the wounded to the rock. He was wounded twice but patched himself up and kept rescuing his comrades. He eventually passed out from loss of blood and a broken back.

Ray suffered from post-traumatic stress. After the war, he found a job as an electrician and later began his own business. He couldn’t sleep. He hoped work would keep his mind off the war. He lost a lot of weight. 

After passing out during a job and nearly getting himself killed, Ray went to the VA to speak with a psychologist. “Talking about the experiences helped me deal with them. My memories were no longer abstract. I could deal with them.” Ray’s memory of his war experiences was near-photographic, except for Sicily.

Ray was highly successful in business, in his community, and taking care of his soldiers after the war. Seventy years later, he could recall their first names, where they were from, and their wives’ names. “Getting to know people on a personal level kept us going when times were tough. They knew that I cared about them and would never put them in danger carelessly.”

I first met Ray in 2004 at the 60th anniversary of D-Day. We’ve been dear friends ever since. In 2018, our friend Christophe Coquel (a resident of Normandy) and I devised a plan to put a plaque on the concrete chunk where Ray saved so many lives. “I want the names of every man in the medical section on that plaque,” Ray told me. 

Ray and his family attended the October 2018 ceremony to dedicate Ray’s Rock. It’s the only plaque on the beach and the only marker dedicated to a platoon of medics. “I can still hear their voices in the waves,” Ray reflected, staring at the surf.

Ray’s legacy lives on in the people he touched because they pay his gifts forward to others. Who will remember you, and how will they remember you? 

1. Gratitude: you can fail alone, but you cannot succeed alone. Ray grew up in depression-era northern Alabama. He left home at age 13 to find a job and never finished high school. He said he became who he was because of the support of others. We’re all privileged, and we have agency. What are you doing with your opportunities?

2. Putting people in a position to succeed is the best form of caring. Ray knew his soldiers and employees and what mattered most to them. They gave their best because they knew Ray cared about them and put them in positions to succeed. Are you bringing out the best in others?

3. Set the right example and mind the say-do gap. Ray lived his standards of competence and character. He wasn’t perfect. He expected you to know your job and be trustworthy. He never asked people to endure hardship that he was unwilling to endure himself. What say-do gaps should you close?

4. Be your best self by finding the right support. Strong people like Ray are the ones who seek out support to take them to new heights. People who lack confidence wrap themselves in a crust and pretend they’re invulnerable. They never develop. Like a lobster, Alan Weiss says, you have to shed your protective shell if you want to grow. Who are your catalysts

What will be your legacy: how will people remember you?

Wisconsin winters are bitter cold, which motivates me to wear sweatshirts.

Each one brings unforgettable memories.

I get lots of comments whenever I wear my Marines sweatshirt, as I did on Tuesday. 

I served with some exceptional Marines in Afghanistan, especially those who were advisers to our partnered Afghan Army battalion.

Lieutenant Colonel Ty Edwards was the senior adviser during our last months in Afghanistan in 2008.

The Afghan Army tends to be very top-down. 

This Afghan battalion had a senior NCO who was a mullah from the Nuristani ethnic group. We’ll call him Mohammad.

We had been working hard with the Nuristanis in our area. 

Ty believed that Mohammad could boost our relationships.

The challenge was convincing the lieutenant colonel in charge of the battalion to let Mohammad play an influential role.

Ty asked questions that encouraged the commander to find ways that Mohammad could contribute his best.

The decision was a game-changer. 

The elders embraced Mohammad, asking him to lead prayers before and after each meeting. Their trust grew.

Together, they convinced the leader of a large insurgent group to stop fighting and support the government.

Those elders and former insurgents continue fighting the Taliban today.

Mohammad’s role was instrumental in creating one of the biggest wins in the history of the 20-year war.

Ty invited me to his hooch for cigars on my last evening in Afghanistan and presented me with the Marines sweatshirt.  

A few weeks later, Ty was badly wounded in a firefight as he rallied his Afghan partners. He always led by example.

I visited him several times at Walter Reed as he fought for his life. 

Ty lives in Florida.

The Marines sweatshirt fills me with gratitude for Ty. 

His leadership, courage, toughness, and friendship inspire me to make a difference, to pay it forward.

Thank you, Ty. 

Who are you grateful for?

Dear Chris,

“What steps can I take to get the best from each day?” Karen G. wrote. 

I love getting these requests from you :0)

1. Organize your day by blocking off 1 hour + chunks of time you dedicate to your priorities. Let every other requirement flow around those chunks.

2. Set three objectives that you will accomplish each day (work on these during your priority times). Keep them achievable. Don’t boil the ocean. Write four paragraphs instead of four chapters.

3. Reward yourself when you meet your three objectives. Make some Oolong tea; grab a cappuccino, take an extra walk with your dog. This practice helps you build the habit of keeping commitments to yourself.

4. Schedule time for your personal, social, familial, and other priorities each week. Sundays are a great day to set your weekly agenda so that you maintain balance and dedicate time to what’s most important in life.

5. Set boundaries and stick to them. If you don’t have the time or something is outside your expertise, say so. The people who matter will respect your boundaries and will appreciate that you are not destroying yourself trying to please everyone.

1- 5 help you put first things first, so you are focused on what matters most.

6. Give thanks. A handwritten note is powerful. A quick video, email, or text is super, too. Recognize someone for awesomeness at the store, restaurant, hospital, or other places you visit during the day. 

Catch people doing something well and let them know you appreciate what they do.

7. Laugh

8. Offer to help. There’s so much opportunity to do the little things that make a big difference. Perform random acts of kindness.  

9. Exercise. Take a walk; ride your bike; go for a run; go to the (home) gym.

6 – 9 release endorphins that reduce stress, improve your mood, and boost your self-esteem

10. Read a national paper and a local paper. Know what’s happening in the country and world as well as in your community.

11. Give people your undivided attention when you are speaking with them. Be fully present—no multitasking or smartphones. 

12. Take time for personal growth. Read a book or article, watch a video, listen to a podcast. 

These last three enrich your life and boost your impact.

What is your top action step to get the most from each day? 

Eat More Chicken

A Veteran’s Observations of Army-Navy 2018…Eat more Chicken

Thank you, Chick-fil-a!

It’s always one of the first Saturdays in December. While the stadium might change occasionally (88 of 119 have been in Philadelphia), it is also almost always a blustery-cold winter day. A few other things are also always a constant. The Naval Academy’s Midshipmen and Military Academy’s Corps of Cadets are always in full attendance, and will conduct one of the most impressive march-on events ever witnessed. And, no matter what either team’s season has been, the slate is washed clean when it comes to these two teams taking the field. This was the 119th Army-Navy rivalry match-up, and it was no different than the 118 that preceded this one. Both teams prepare all season for this one game, and they leave nothing to spare–everything is left on the field.

This was one of many of the Army-Navy games I have watched in my own 26+ years of serving in the military, but only the sixth I have actually had the privilege of attending. Let me just say, it was one of the most special, and if the picture above and title don’t give a hint as to why, I will explain.

There were a couple of things that were different this year that made the 119th Army-Navy Game one of the most memorable of any game ever, and it was all because Chick-fil-A did what it does so well: going the second mile (and beyond)!

Observation 1: An External perspective.

This year, Chick-fil-A, which has been a proud supporter of the Army football team, went “all in” on hosting an amazing event. The Army-Navy Watch Party. Just 15 minutes north of Lincoln Financial Stadium, Chick-fil-A reserved the 23rd Street Armory, built out its mobile pop-up restaurant, and filled it with enough seating for easily 500 people. All this was to not play favorites–Army or Navy– but to bring the two veteran sides together, recognizing each and every veteran as an equal, and thanking them in ways that words marginally do justice. The Chick-fil-A Director of Military Relations was personally handing out excellence coins with an engaging handshake, a sincere smile, and a “thank you for your service.” The Director of Marketing was on sight personally ensuring everything was saying what it was intended to say in just the right way. And, in addition to executive leaders from within Chick-fil-A, they hired a host of talented team members to engage, videotape, photograph, and thank the veteran audience that turned out.

Chick-fil-A decked out the Armory out with two huge flat screen televisions, a turf mini-football field, and even a marching band! As the crowd began to pour in at 1 PM, the maestro engaged them right away in fun activities like Simon SaysRock-paper-scissors face-offs, dance-offs, and more. And they were certainly not left wanton, as Chick-fil-A was providing its iconic chicken sandwiches, sweet tea, and fresh-squeezed lemonade at the window. How much you ask? All free! What’s more, Chick-fil-A recognized some 10 veterans and their families with the biggest surprise of all–tickets to the game. Sweet enough deal, right? Well, how about on-field passes, and a limousine ride to boot? Talk about a memorable experience…and all Chick-fil-A’s way of saying “thank you.” Well, as a veteran myself, I have to say, “thank you!” What I saw was simply beautiful, and it was all done in a top-notch, positive way, bringing Army and Navy, (as well as some Air Force and Marine Corps folks) together to share in the historic game.

Observation 2: A unique internal perspective.

What I witnessed as just a spectator and veteran should be enough for you to understand what made this Army-Navy more special than any other, but what I have to share in my second observation expresses what made the whole event and day so special for me personally. First, I was able to share the day with someone who a mentor introduced me to. I spent the day getting to know a man who is a leader-legend in his own right. Being with this humble hero is what truly enabled me to clearly see and experience this second observation. I was able to see firsthand the selfless team that came out to make this whole event so special. Several Owner-Operators, many veterans themselves, came from all over the country at Chick-fil-A’s bequest to provide the unmatched support and leadership necessary to make such a special event happen. Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, North Carolina. The amount of planning, time, consideration, and resources that went in to make this day happen was evident everywhere you turned!

One of Chick-fil-A’s National mobile kitchens was on site making hot, juicy sandwiches in no time flat! A team of probably 75-100 folks helped set-up, execute, and clean up when it was all said and done. A top-notch event, executed and overseen with the utmost precision and care.

I found myself humbled

Unbeknown to me, I found myself humbled with the great privilege of being able to tag along with a couple of the Chick-fil-A Corporate leaders who were ensuring all was going as planned, and what I saw was simply awesome. They were engaging veterans, making time to talk to cadets, midshipmen, and senior military leaders alike to reiterate their gratitude and provide in any way they could for those they came in contact with. It was more apparent than ever to me how important an organization’s culture is to the success of an organization. For me, Chick-fil-A’s one-in-million way of service made this Army-Navy one of my most memorable experiences. And its because they not only focus on the big things but the little things too…and they do it all with a spirit of excellence and gratitude.

The game ended (happily for me) 17-10, with Army taking the victory, as well as the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy home. Both teams have much of which to be proud, because this day is always so much bigger than the game itself, but at the same time, for three hours, it is ALL about the game itself, in a good old-fashioned family rivalry.

As one veteran said so astutely as I listened, “Only 3 hours on a Saturday does the Army and the Navy go at it like this–otherwise, we are brothers and sisters in arms, willing to fight and die for one another given the chance.” Amen to that! If one has never served, that may seem foreign, but I assure you, it could not be truer. The Army-Navy game represents everything that is good. The guts, the grit, the determination, the resilience, and professionalism of an all-volunteer military, of which we, as a Nation, can surely be proud. The Army-Navy game is just a slight representation of what is special about our Nation’s sons and daughters that decide to serve, and it was an even more special Army-Navy to see a Corporate team-mate like Chick-fil-A come alongside and share in the occasion. Thank you. And to those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who continue to serve and may even this day be in harm’s way to protect our freedoms, we thank you!

Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions expressed herein are the author’s own, and do not in any way express the views, opinions, or expressed interests of the U.S. Armed Forces, the United States Army, nor Chick-fil-A, Inc.

By: Erik Kober, Owner Kober Strategic Leader Consulting