Unite

Let us use days like today to not only remember the fallen but to look ahead and make the best out of the lives that we’ve been fortunate enough to keep.

Unite

I had the distinct honor of speaking at two different Memorial Day Ceremonies on Monday.

This is the message that I shared:

Tamra Bolton states: “This is the day we pay homage to all those who didn’t come home. This is not Veterans Day, it’s not a celebration, it is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom.”

I am standing in front of you today because I am a combat veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom. I served in Baghdad, Iraq as a Military Police Officer from  June 2003 to July 2004 for the Army National Guard. I have a brother who also served in Iraq. He was a medic in an infantry unit serving out of Ramadi in 2003 and 2004. Yes. We were deployed at the same time. My father is a Vietnam Veteran and my twin brother served in the Peace Corps in South Africa. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my mom, who biked across the entire country in 2005 in honor of the soldiers overseas. She carried a yellow sign on her back in support of bringing the troops home as soon as possible. Additionally, I have a father-in-law who served in Vietnam as well as other veterans in my family including uncles and a grandfather.

It wasn’t until Memorial Day in 2004 that I truly understood the gravity of this day’s significance. On April 9th, 2004, my company lost its first soldier. Her name was Michelle Witmer. She was the first female KIA in the history of the National Guard.

We were on the same mission that dire night—guarding the Baghdad police stations against the insurgents. We drove home around 2 am after our replacements arrived. Her squad took one route home, we took another. I listened on the HMMV radio as she left this earth after being shot. She was the gunner in her vehicle.

As I reflected on her passing and those of the millions of other soldiers before her, I finally understood the importance of Memorial Day. It is not about the living. It is about those true heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom

Winston Churchill said it best when he said “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

As I wrote in my memoir, “Memorial Day is no longer a holiday, a time to cookout and party. It’s a day to commemorate fallen soldiers.”

I honor and remember not only Michelle Witmer’s sacrifice but a young man named Daniel Thompson as well.  Upon my return home from Iraq, I received my sergeant stripes and Daniel Thompson was one of the first soldiers on my team. After my time of service was complete, he continued his service and volunteered to go to Afghanistan where he gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country in on February 24th, 2009.

I also remember my brothers and sisters in arms who are still with us today. The individuals I lived and worked with for over a year. I think about the person we turned into while we were deployed. The blood, sweat, and tears we gave to serve our country. The despair, pride, love, hate, fear, and joy we felt for 16 long months. Memorial Day is one more thing in our lives that is forever changed because of our time in service.

I have a wonderful neighbor named Doug who served in Vietnam. We often share war stories and last year he told me that he feels a connection with me. Fellow Veterans – isn’t that the truth? We have a special bond—something that only we can truly grasp and understand. If you are standing here today and feel alone or forgotten, please look around and find someone to talk to—to find solidarity with. We are here for you. It’s okay to not be okay. According to an NPR article from June of 2021, we’ve lost just over 7,000 military members since 9-11, yet suicides have reached over 4 times as many, at just above 30,000. That’s not ok. Don’t hesitate to check on your fellow veterans and make sure they’re all right.

Let us use days like today to not only remember the fallen but to look ahead and make the best out of the lives that we’ve been fortunate enough to keep. Life is filled with a myriad of opportunities. Let’s seize them and not let any one of our comrades die in vain.

The fallen fought for the United States of America—for a united nation.

Let’s unite with our commonalities and choose to respect and understand those who think differently. When I think of Michelle Witmer’s love and compassion she showed to all those around her—even to the feral puppies she adopted in Iraq, I know she stood for a United Nation. Not one divided over masks or guns or abortion rights. Because in the end, we all want what’s best for our nation and for our descendants. Let’s unite and find common ground instead of tearing each other apart.

John F. Kennedy nailed it when he said: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”

How are you living your best life? How are you continuing to serve and unite the lives of those around you?

Jennifer M. Granholm captured my sentiments exactly when she said, “Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.”

Let’s come together in this divided and tumultuous world and treat one another with the utmost empathy and compassion regardless of others’ beliefs. We all fought for a better country, a better world, and we can only get there by accepting others and treating them with dignity.

Reflection

Find time to pause, practice gratitude, and reflection.

Reflection

Why is reflection so important?

I had a bad dream last weekend that jarred me from my sleep and almost stole the rest of my night away. I attribute the dream to the Ukrainian tragedy and a book I’m reading called, “The Beekeeper of Aleppo” by Christy Lefteri which is about a Syrian refugee and his wife in 2015.

My dream was related to my five-year-old. This five-year-old has the kindest heart. He cries when he accidentally hurts someone, he’s distraught when someone dies on TV, and he loves to cuddle and give others his “hug attacks.” When I pick him up from daycare, the kids line up to say goodbye and get a hug from him. In my dream, he was sitting on my lap and I was embracing him tightly, telling him that I loved him with earnest conviction because I knew, based on what was happening around me, that his innocence was going to be destroyed within the next few moments.

I can’t remember if it was terrorists coming to steal him from me or bombs exploding around us, but I knew I was going to lose my sweet and tenderhearted boy. As someone who typically forgets everything about my dreams, I can’t believe how vividly I still remember this gut-wrenching feeling.

I spent the next few hours in a reflective state, grateful that my family lives a “privileged” life and almost laughing at the mundane things that we decide to get upset and worried about. Of course, my thoughts veered towards business leadership.

It’s already May and 2022 is approaching its halfway point. Schools are finishing up for the year, the hustle and bustle of summer is quickly approaching, and we’re busier than ever. This dream came at an opportune time to pause, practice reflection, and be grateful for all that has happened so far this year. We often get so engrossed with our day-to-day habits, that we forget to look at the big picture and make sure we’re still following our dreams—even the bad ones.

Here are my key takeaways:

  • We are fortunate that our worries do not typically have life or death consequences. My worries might include obtaining my next client, preparing for my next meeting, practicing for my next speaking engagement, making sure that the website is up-to-date, or writing my next newsletter. This dream puts things into perspective. Even though most of our worries seem like we’re climbing Mt. Everest, they are rolling hills compared to what others have to endure.


**How can you put your worries and those of your Team into perspective?

  • Make the most out of the life that we are fortunate to live and find ways to help those around us in whatever capacity we can. If you can give to Ukraine, support your family, be philanthropists within your community, or join a cause—please find a way to help those less fortunate.


**How are you and your organization giving back?

  • Don’t forsake your priorities. My priorities are my family. When my 6-year-old asked me to attend his last field trip of the year, I shifted things around to make it happen. They’re only going to be young once and I don’t want them to feel like anything is more important than they are.


**How can you stick to your priorities and allow your Team to do the same?

  • We need to live our best lives and do the things that bring us joy and happiness. Life is fleeting; we never know when or how it’s going to end. Avoid living a life that is hollow, only focused on money, or passionless. Let’s live fully, richly, and with love.

**How can you find more joy in your life both at work and at home?

Laura Colbert Consulting Programs


Lead Well: For Newly Promoted Leaders is an 8-week program that will help your newly promoted leaders thrive as they move from peer status to power status. Click here to download the one-pager. Are you a good fit for this program? 

SIGN UP NOW! Book a free 30-minute consultation with Laura to make sure this is the best fit for you.


The Trusted Advisor Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, relentless accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results.



Fallen Hero Honor Ride

If you are willing to go into the arena, you never know who you might meet and their impact on your life and business.

Jerry showed me that being personal was so much more than personalizing.

Synthetic connections give you a seductive promise: you can engage with prospects en masse in a seemingly intimate way, generating more business with less effort.

It seems like paradise for a consultant.

Except it’s damaging your credibility and decreasing the impact you can make on the world.

When you get the “Dear # Firstname …” email, how do you feel?

How about the Linkedin connection request, “It’s great to connect with you, and I hope you’re doing well during these interesting times. I’ve had the privilege of working with many business owners and always like to be surrounded by smart people with a winning mindset. I’m curious, # First Name, how has your business been affected with everything going on?”

Blah, blah, blah.

I listened to a podcast interview while cycling on Saturday. College students tend to prefer text over voice calls because they feel in control. They can respond when and how they want and not have to worry about the rough and tumble of personal conversations in which they might say something wrong or miss an important signal.


You do not have to be vulnerable or uncomfortable when everyone is like you. Digging trenches instead of building bridges diminishes our lives and businesses.

If you are willing to go into the arena, you never know who you might meet and their impact on your life and business.

One year ago, I decided to undertake a bicycle ride to visit the graves of the six paratroopers from my unit killed in action in Afghanistan. I hadn’t ridden in twenty years. I was tempted to buy a bike online and save the frustration of salespeople.

Personal



Recognizing that I was sure to make a poor choice on my own, I braved the crowds and ventured to Wheel & Sprocket, a local bike store. Jerry met me and asked what I was looking for.

Jerry was genuinely curious. He wanted to know what I wanted to accomplish by riding — exercise, distance, cross-country, acrobatics?

I was reluctant to let him know about the Honor Ride I was planning, but I relented because I figured it would have a bearing on which bicycle would be best. Jerry suggested the TREK Domane SL7. I did some more research and returned a few days later to purchase the bike. I wanted to make sure Jerry was at the store so he would get credit for the sale.

Jerry custom-painted bicycles and offered to paint a legacy bike for the ride. He refused to be paid for it.

His generosity got me thinking a bit bigger. He was helping me achieve a dream — completing the 1700-mile endeavor. What if I could create some lasting value from the Honor Ride to help people achieve their goals?

Personal



Jerry’s personal approach, getting to know me and the dreams I wanted to achieve by riding a bicycle, inspired me to launch the Saber Six Foundation, which helps my unit’s veterans and their families to achieve their dreams.

Jerry’s a true artist. He painted the bicycle while reading Jake Tapper’s bestseller, The Outpost, which, in part, is about our unit.


Because Jerry cared so much, he created something beyond our imaginations.

Jerry shows that personal connections — authenticity, emotion, and vulnerability — enrich our lives and create meaningful opportunities and outcomes. You personalize with hashtags, ads, and social media. You need to be in the arena to be personal.

There’s no limit to the amount of good you can do when you care enough to learn about someone’s dreams and ways to help them succeed. That, after all, is what personal connection is all about.

I’m so grateful for your kindness, generosity, and inspiration, Jerry.

P.S. Does anyone know how to get rid of those personalized ads showing me bicycles that I don’t need?





Leading the Middle -2021 – A year in Reflection

Thank you for connecting, sharing your perspectives, thoughts, and experiences. I learned more about leadership, people, and myself than I ever expected. I am filled with gratitude because of you and the experience. I am especially grateful to my friend Aaron who passed earlier this year. I will treasure the lessons from the Bloody Knuckles Garage, his humanness, and grace. As I wrap up the year, I am sharing a few of my favorite words, phrases, and ideas that you gifted to me.

Be more elephant and less hippo

The Mid-Leader Six
As goes the middle, so goes the organization.
Would you follow you?
The Unknowing Mentor
What did your habits do for you today? LEADER
Seek first to understand before being understood.
Tap into the superpowers of your Team.
Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.
People are not on the Team; they are the Team.
They follow you not because they have to but because they want to.
So That…
Create that Friday feeling.
Wisdom is doing now what you will be happy with later.
Like weeds, you have to manage or prune away toxic behaviors.
Talking at the speed of trust.
Find your gratitude.
The power of the pause.
People are your purpose.

Page through my posts if you would like a refresher on any or reach out to me. What was your favorite? Feel free to print and post the word art. Take care of people and take care of yourself.

lessons

Last year’s life lessons translated into leadership lessons

Lessons

For me, 2021 was a transformative year. I left the world of education in June and joined the Strategic Leaders Academy on July 1 as a consultant and professional speaker. It made perfect senseI have been speaking about my experience in Iraq since 2004, and I have held leadership positions in almost every facet of my life since high school. I was ready, willing, and able for this next chapter in my life.

I am abundantly happier and less stressed now that I have more control over my life. Has it always been easy? No, not at all. I had to move from the public system to private, I had to learn to “speak business,” sell and market myself, network like there’s no tomorrow, and say goodbye to the many wonderful people I worked with as a principal. It was, however, the best decision I ever madethat, or I’m making the best out of my decisionwink wink.

I learned so much last year, especially in the past six months. Here are 21 of those lessons and how they translate into leadership:

1. The life of a principal is so tiresome that it was difficult to look for another job.

  • Make sure your employees and leaders have enough time to enjoy life and do things that can rejuvenate them. Also, how can we help the overworked school systems?


2. People are inherently good, but put them into a group with toxic people and that sludge will infiltrate even the best of people.

  • Hire the right people. Don’t compromise. If you need a body, hire on a temporary contract to see if it’s a good fit for you and them or don’t hire at all.

3. Values are not to be compromised. I was very close to doing so. I felt differently about how to deal with people than my superior. We never communicated about our fundamental values around this topic which could have alleviated a lot of stress from everyone involved.

  • Be explicit about your values and expectations so that you hire people who’ve bought-in to your core values. Don’t assume your employees have the same values as you. Have a conversation with them and make sure their values align with your Team’s common purpose, vision, and mission.

4. Autonomy, creativity, and innovation are inextricably linked.

  • The more autonomy your employees have, the more innovation and creativity will occur. This will also boost belonging and buy-in—a win/win.


5. Everyone has advice. All the time. No matter who you are or if you asked for it. Audit this advice. It has the power to overwhelm and shut down.

  • See my article on feedback for more information. Hire a trusted advisor to help you weed out the feedback that matters.


6. People act in mysterious ways.

  • You are the only person you can control. Sometimes it’s hard to “let it go,” but you will be much happier when you can move on from a difficult situation.

7. Control of my time sounds better in my head than in my guilty conscience. By that, I mean that even though I have complete control, it’s hard not to work all the time. Something always needs to be done.

  • Make sure your Team is taking their much-needed and much-deserved time off. If you lead by example, they will follow. If you show up to work before sunrise and leave after sunset, they will feel like they have to do the same and may become resentful.


8. There are so many amazing and wonderful people out there.

  • Get to know your Team on a personal level. It will make difficult conversations much easier with a solid foundation intact.


9.  Social Media is a time suck. I already knew this one, but I had never worked with LinkedIn before. I’ve found it especially challenging to make sure I’m doing what is best for my business while maintaining boundaries.

  • Keep track of how much time you spend on social media. Increase your productivity at work to increase your time off at home.


10. Talk at the speed of trust. As a type-A personality, I need to make sure that I’m not moving too fast for my clients.

  • Sometimes too much information can be damaging. Know who you’re talking to and how to talk to them.

11. It’s easy to get stuck in hypnotic habits.

  • So often we think we’re busting our humps at work, but in reality, we’re spending all of our time in emails and meetings without working on our business.


12. “Commission breath” is a real thing

  • Make sure you build trust before you start using the salesperson swagger.

13. Avoid “putting your great ladder along the wrong wall.”

  • Make sure your vision aligns with your outcomes. Otherwise, burnout is inevitable.


14. The longer you spend working within your strengths, the happier you’ll be and the more productive and innovative you will become.

  • For many, working on our weaknesses is a badge of honor, but it might not be a point of joy or passion. Delegate as much as possible and do what brings you joy to boost productivity at work.

15. My brain shuts down between 2 and 3 pm every day. This is my low point and when I need to take a break, go for a walk, or get a snack to re-energize.

  • Pay attention to your natural rhythms and align your work to those rhythms. For example, I am most productive in the morning. This is when I sit in the quiet and create. I try to have my meetings with others in the afternoons because they re-energize me and get me away from my screens.


16. It costs 50%-200% of someone’s salary to rehire for their position.

  • Putting people first is a must in today’s great recession. If you want to learn more about how this trend will continue, read this ebook—Demographic Drought


17. You have a choice. So many people have told me that they wish they could do what I did by quitting their 9-5 job.

  • Here’s the secret: YOU CAN! It’s a choice. We all have them. It’s about making the most out of the decisions you choose to make.


18. Living without fear is liberating. I am an all-in type of person. I love new experiences and I love to meet new people. From backpacking to Europe, to purchasing my first house as a single person, to marrying my husband in 4.5 months of meeting himmy lack of fear has provided me with abundant joy and amazing opportunities.

  • My lack of fear is based on realistic optimism and grit. I am one of the most fiscally conservative humans you’ll meet. Please tread lightly and logically with this one. But by all means, don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back.


19. Authenticity is key. I’m a people pleaser but the more I’m myself, the happier I am.

  • Choose you! You’re the only one we’ve got.


20. Rely on your network. When I’m stuck, down in the dumps, or need a thought partner, I have amazing individuals to reach out to. Thank you to Chris Kolenda and Jeff Marquez for being my top two go-tos!

  • Don’t try to lone-wolf it. Who do you go to when you need help? Remember, I’m here if you need me!


21.  Family Firstmy “why.” These four cuties are what make me the happiest. I love watching the kids learn and grow and become their own little humans. As long as I prioritize my family, I feel successful and they know they’re loved.

  • What’s your “why” and how can you prioritize that?
Lessons

Invest in the Proper Leadership Training to Insure Promoted Leaders can Succeed and Thrive

You just promoted one of your best workers into a leadership position. They are rocking it. They are putting in the time, arriving first and leaving last, getting the job done, and the energy seems to never cease. Are you worried? Perhaps you should be.

Like all new things, there is a honeymoon period—a time when the grass couldn’t be greener. Relationships are new and exciting, the new leader is powering through, making decisions, and learning the ropes.

But then someone doesn’t agree with their idea, a plan didn’t go as planned, or there is an interpersonal conflict. The long days soon catch up with them. Their kids are growing up before their eyes but they’ve missed many special moments because they were too engrossed in the work. The new leader grows resentful and starts to burn out.

Is it too late to change course, to start coming in later and leave a little earlier, to downshift on their new initiatives? How can they get the energy, drive, passion, zest, and commitment back? We’ve all heard that in today’s stressful world we need to “slow down,” and “take care of ourselves.”

Hiring a new leader is an investment. It can cost up to 200% of their annual salary to replace an employee. If their salary is $100,000 a year and they decide to leave, you could lose up to $200,000 in order to replace them. What business can afford to waste this much money? What could you do with $200,000 to grow your business?

Make sure you invest in the proper leadership training so that your newly promoted leaders can succeed and thrive within your organization. Additionally, how do you, as a leader of leaders, model the slow and steady approach and convey the message that being a leader is more of a marathon than a sprint. What kind of conversations are you having with your new leader to help them take care of themselves?

Help your newly promoted leaders maintain passion and joy with these simple action steps:

  • Meet with your new leaders often. Once a week is a great timeline. Use our weekly check-in method to keep the conversation on the right track. Ask them the tough questions to find out how they’re doing and provide support when needed. Celebrate their wins and compliment their successes.
  • Model, model, model. Show them how to lead in tough situations, role-play crucial conversations, display an appropriate amount of work/life balance, and exhibit your own joy in passion for the work—it’s contagious!
  • Create clear expectations that go both ways. Make the relationship one of respect and reciprocity and the communication lines will remain open and honest.

The bottom line: Set your leaders up for success. If you think I might be a good fit to help with this then here are some options:

  1. The Trusted Advisor Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, relentless accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results.
  1. Lead Well: For Newly Promoted Leaders is an 8-week program that will help your newly promoted leaders thrive as they move from peer status to power status. The next program begins at the beginning of February. There are only 8 spaces available. Click here to download the one-pager. Are you a good fit for this program? SIGN UP NOW! Book a 30-minute appointment with Laura to make sure this is the best fit for you.

Additional Offerings:
Join our central Wisconsin in-person or online Impactful Leadership Lunch. Join like-minded leaders during this monthly mastermind lunch group to improve your business efficiency, boost employee retention, and get you focused on doing what gives you joy.

Looking for a Keynote Speaker at your next event? I use my past experiences and knowledge to show you how to be the best version of yourself, surround yourself with the right people, and build highly productive teams.

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Humility

The holiday season has a lot of meaning. Humility is one of its most enduring themes.

Humility is the conviction that others have value. It’s not self-abnegation. When you have humility, you listen to learn from others — their experiences, insights, points of view, and beliefs. You observe and look at the facts. When you have humility, you are willing to change your opinions and conclusions in the face of new evidence.

Hubris is the belief that only your views matter and that others are evidence of ignorance or evil. When you have hubris, you seek only information that confirms your pre-existing beliefs, and you reject everything else. Totalitarian ideologies, historical and present, seek to impose their views by force — berating, coercing, canceling. Negligence is hubris without conviction. You go along to get along.

The holiday season has a lot of meaning. Humility is one of its most enduring themes.

I’m grateful for 2021 — the people I’ve met and served, all of you in this community, my failures and successes, and the opportunities to learn, get better, pay it forward, and help people be their best selves and realize their dreams.

I’m grateful as 2022 approaches. At the end of that year, too, I’ll look back and realize how ignorant I was at the start of it.

Humility is the foundation of all virtues. Confucius.

What action steps will you take to make 2022 your best year?

https://strategicleadersacademy.com/

Fallen Hero Honor Ride

6 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.

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).

https://www.gofundme.com/f/fallen-hero-honor-ride

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

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.

Thanksgiving

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.

The veteran community is robust, passionate, gritty, funny, caring, empathetic, resourceful, and tough as nails – These are my people

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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blessings