Six paratroopers from my unit in Afghanistan were killed in action. They served and sacrificed so that Americans could pursue their dreams in peace and safety. Each one died executing the orders that I gave them.

Their stories are frozen in time. Their legacies, however, live.

The Fallen Hero Honor Ride is a 1700-mile bicycle ride to visit their graves and raise funds for scholarship endowments in their names so that their legacies continue to help Americans achieve their dreams.

Six paratroopers from my unit in Afghanistan were killed in action. They served and sacrificed so that Americans could pursue their dreams in peace and safety. Each one died executing the orders that I gave them.

Their stories are frozen in time. Their legacies, however, live.

The Fallen Hero Honor Ride is a 1700-mile bicycle ride to visit their graves and raise funds for scholarship endowments in their names so that their legacies continue to help Americans achieve their dreams.I’ll begin the ride in Spalding, Nebraska, where Chris Pfeifer is buried, and proceed through Carroll, Iowa, to visit Adrian Hike’s final resting place and Elwood, Illinois, to see Jacob Lowell’s grave. The route turns south to Hall, Indiana, to see Ryan Fritsche’s site and Minersville, Pennsylvania, where Dave Boris is buried. The ride concludes at gravesite 8755, section 60, Arlington National Cemetery, where Tom Bostick rests in peace.

You can learn more about their stories here.

My goal is to raise $400,000 so that the endowments last in perpetuity.

There are many ways you can support the Fallen Hero Honor Ride. The Saber Six Foundation is a 501c3 tax-exempt public charity, so your donations are tax-deductible.
1. Donate online.
2. Donate by check to The Saber Six Foundation c/o Chris Kolenda, 2245 N Lake Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53202.
3. As a 501c3, we are eligible for employer matching donations. Check with your company for their procedures.
4. Share this email with your friends.
5. Join me for part (or all) of the ride.
6. Donate $1 per mile ($1700), and you’ll get a cycling jersey and a personalized thank you video from me during the ride. If you sponsor me by July 4, 2022, I’ll add your name to the jersey (and the name of your company if you use matching donations).

I’m thankful for Iqbal.

He and his family arrived in America with only the clothes on their backs. A group of us visited him in Seattle this weekend.

Iqbal worked his way from being a day-laborer on our outpost in Afghanistan to a cultural advisor and then an interpreter because he taught himself English (Iqbal speaks 5 languages). He helped Nate Springer (below, right) and I build bridges to local communities by letting us know about decades-long blood feuds, ways people tried to manipulate us, and behind-the-scenes issues that helped us understand why people were doing what they were doing. His support saved American lives. Iqbal never used his position for illicit gain.

He applied for a Special Immigrant Visa in 2014. A bureaucratic error from a human resources officer at a government contractor resulted in the State Department denying the application. I threw up in my mouth when I read the letter. Several of us, spearheaded by Dan Wilson (2nd from right), helped him re-apply.

He tried to start a business, but the corruption costs were too high. He enlisted to serve in a special operations force. Despite having no formal schooling, Iqbal rose in the ranks quickly to become an officer. By 2021, he was a lieutenant colonel in charge of 1000 soldiers.

His bosses expected him to use his position to move money into their pockets. Iqbal refused. His integrity earned him spite from those officials and dangerous assignments. The last of those was defending the Kandahar airfield in August as the Afghan state was disintegrating. Nearly out of food, water, and ammunition, Iqbal’s unit fended off Taliban attacks as hundreds of Afghans evacuated to Kabul. Iqbal made certain that two American reporters made their way out safely.

When he discovered that not all his soldiers had gotten out, Iqbal flew back to Kandahar to get them. The plane returned to Kabul, stranding Iqbal and about 100 others. He delayed the Taliban through skillful negotiations. Miraculously, a final aircraft returned to Kandahar to pick up Iqbal and his men.

Iqbal and his family made their way to America during the chaotic evacuation and just arrived in Seattle. Josh Rodriguez (seated between me and Iqbal), who Iqbal advised in 2008, started a fundraiser. Thanks to boosts from people like CNN’s Jake Tapper, the fundraiser amassed over $104,000. Iqbal had no idea.

As we gathered around the carpet in his new apartment, Iqbal (in the corner to my left) told us how thankful he was. “I’ve never had formal schooling,” he said, “but you taught me how to lead, to live a life of integrity, to do what’s right, and to take care of the people on my team.”

“When you came to my country, I was very grateful. You left behind your families to help us. When I arrived in America, I became even more thankful.”

What do you mean by that, one of us asked?

“Being here has allowed me to see what you left behind to come to Afghanistan.”

Tears welled in his eyes when Josh told him about the fundraiser. He could not believe that Americans could be so generous.

He plans to build a business and employ as many of his former soldiers as possible. They stood their ground in Kandahar because Iqbal was their exemplar of courage, integrity, and caring.

I’m dedicating this Thanksgiving to the exemplars in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Yup, that’s me in the photo—the one with hair. I’m not sharing the picture to boast or brag, but rather to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU! I’m bursting with gratitude as I write this. Gratitude to be surrounded by so many other wonderful veterans, so many civilians that care, and for a country that honors its heroes. I have had the utmost privilege of meeting many outstanding service members since my return home, and especially since I’ve changed careers in July.

My life is deeply impacted by these brothers and sisters in arms. The kindred spirit flows through our interwoven relationships and the unspoken bond strengthens with every interaction. The veteran community is robust, passionate, gritty, funny, caring, empathetic, resourceful, and tough as nails. Our go-to answer is, “yes” and then we figure out how to do it. Work ethic and gumption ooze out of every pore. These are my people.
Please know that every thank you and Veterans Day acknowledgment means the world to me/us and it fills my heart with joy and gratitude.

I had to share this outstanding drawing that a 6th grader gave me this morning. Her talent is out of this world and it almost brought me to tears.
Originally, this article was meant to create awareness about Veterans. However, as the day unfolds, and the love continues to grow, I simply want to say, “Thank you!” And if you haven’t reached out to a veteran today, perhaps think about the positive impact of that interaction.
Blessings to you all and thanks to all the Veterans in my life.

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Core Values

As the “Facebook Papers” continue to unfold showing us the fundamental gaps in Facebook’s values one can wonder if they uphold their values or, rather, if their values revolve around making more money and connections regardless of political turmoil or damage to the users. Are the teams functioning at top capacity with the whistleblowing? Is the company reassessing what they stand for?
When leading teams, empathy, integrity, and trust are vital. A shared set of values will create a strong and productive team. When someone compromises the values, the team struggles to trust and produce ethical results.
One of the leadership teams that I belonged to as a junior leader had two senior leaders with large personalities who leaned toward the negative side. I dubbed the meetings the “Tammy and Tim Show” because the meetings were no longer about the agenda, about the organization’s vision or mission, or even about developing solutions to the problems. We wasted hours throughout the years listening to Tammy and Tim grieve about their problems. Do you have a Tammy and/or Tim? Do you struggle to get the meetings back on track? If we had upheld our team’s core values and meeting norms of “start on time/end on time, collaboration, and sticking to the agenda” this wouldn’t have happened and the meetings would have been more productive and less dysfunctional.

Action steps to getting to the core of your values:

Stick to your values. The people in your life will have a better understanding of who you are, what you stand for, and why you do the things you do.

“Our values should be so crystallized in our minds, so infallible, so precious and clear and unassailable, that they don’t feel like a choice—they are simply a definition of who we are in our lives.” ~ Brene Brown.

  • Don’t have “crystallized” values? Get some. Use this simple formula: What + Definition + So That. Identify the value, define it, and the results/outcomes from it. For example: Respect + Treat everyone with dignity + so that each person feels that they can contribute their best and most authentic selves. Then share your values with your employees, friends, and family. This will help hold you accountable.
  • Uphold your organization’s values. If the values are archaic, change them. If you don’t agree with them and can’t change them then you need to ask yourself if the company is a right fit for you.

“Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things.” ~ Brene Brown.

  • Lean into your values every day to obtain a sense of accomplishment. If you don’t accomplish anything else throughout the day, at least you can say that you upheld your values.
  • Get to know and foster your employee’s values. If family is important to them, honor that. If open communication is one of their values, then communicate with them. This is yet another way to empathize with your employees and create a sense of belonging within your organization.

Are you asking yourself, “How do I do this?” I can help!
[email protected]
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Gratitude

Leading a balanced life is not a matter of dividing time. It’s being clear on your priorities and ensuring that you meet commitments in the important aspects of your life.

It’s easy to drift. You let your email inbox become your daily to-do list and get sucked into the social media vortex. You meet everyone’s demands, but you feel like the most important aspects of your life are passing by. I’ve been there.

Here’s a way to take back your life.

1. Identify the four or five most important aspects of your life. Career, Family & Friends, Health & Fitness, Community, Faith, Mentoring, among others, are common ones.

2. Create a bullseye or spider web chart with a spoke for each aspect. Label the rings 2-4-6-8-10.

3. Assess how well you feel that you are meeting commitments on each one. 0-2 = very poorly; 8-10 = highly satisfied.

4. Connect the dots. How happy are you with the picture?

5. To boost your engagement in a particular area, put time on your calendar for it and do not compromise that commitment.

6. Each morning, write down three things you want to accomplish that day. At the end of the day, write down three things that you achieved.

7. Find a partner or trusted adviser who will help you stay on track and do the right things the right way. Accountability shortens your path to success.

“THE KEY IS NOT TO PRIORITIZE WHAT’S ON YOUR SCHEDULE, BUT TO SCHEDULE YOUR PRIORITIES.” – Stephen Covey,


According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, renovation means to restore to a former better state. As my husband and I finish up the large job of residing our house and replacing all the windows, I can’t help but think of the parallels between this job and that of leadership―where one should strive to become the best version of oneself and to build an organization that allows their employees to do the same―to reach their best “state.”

With three young children, it’s hard for my husband and me to find time for ourselves. Renovating homes―this being our third―has become something we both love to do together. Just like any team, there are growing pains, communication breakdowns, and assumptions that can lead to frustration. Regardless, we are better together because of our shared interests. Here are a few things we’ve learned:

There need to be compromises – It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong or when the other person knows more than you. The sooner you put your ego aside, open your heart and mind to others’ opinions, and understand that their ideas are valuable, the process becomes more freeing and collaborative. Remember, empathy and vulnerability lead to stronger leadership.Communication, communication, communication – When my husband and I were moving the box that held our garage door, he tilted his head in a diagonal direction and said,  “Lay it this way.” I started laughing and said, “Honey, I have no idea which direction your head is implying.” The more that we communicate, the better the outcome, and the quicker the results. Are you making assumptions or jumping to conclusions? Are your employees? Think about how you can create more clarity through communication. There are hidden obstacles around every bend. As leaders, we constantly need to innovate and adapt. Removing the 50-year-old siding has left my husband and me scratching our heads at the randomness left underneath. The rotted holes needed to be fortified, the missing insulation had to be filled, and the hodgepodge siding needed to be streamlined. Similarly, in business, leadership is about building your employees up, streamlining processes, and creating a clear picture of where your organization is headed. Working interdependently leads to better results. 


When my husband called me out of the office to lift the 300 pound 10×5 foot window into its home, I almost laughed at the absurdity. There was no easy way to lift this window with its straight lines and minimum edges for grip. Through our collaborative problem-solving, we figured out how to maneuver the window up and onto chairs and then over into its final resting place. Without our collective brainpower, we almost gave up. As an organization, know that you are better when you work as a whole instead of in silos. The end result is beautiful when executed patiently and to the best of your ability. Things are not built overnight. Life’s nuances, hiccups, and demands are never-ending. Be patient and always do your best. If it is your best, then you should be proud. Perfection is a fallacy.


Are you asking yourself, “How do I do this?” I can help!
[email protected]
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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?