Growing up in Greenville, North Carolina during the post-World War II years, there were multiple military bases in the region therefore I became accustomed to being around military personnel. During my senior year of college, I decided to enlist in the Army and after graduation in July 1966, I did just that. In retrospect, it was the best decision I could have made as it set the table for all that followed. After two years of various training and schoolwork, I was assigned to Vietnam as an Advisor to a Vietnamese Infantry Battalion. In my role as Advisor/1st Lieutenant, I was part of a group that was comprised of a Sergeant First Class and a Spec 4. The “hooch” we lived in had no electricity or running water, only a small propane refrigerator and cooktop.
During firefights, my job was to request, coordinate and deploy support from the U.S. Army and Air Force – we were too far inland to utilize the U.S. Navy. Support consisted of Army helicopter gunships, medivacs, artillery, and light aircraft overhead for visual reconnaissance. Air Force fighter jets were available for bombs, cannon fire, or napalm. What I learned from combat is that there are common threads in fighting, sports, business, and other areas of life. The critical factors are to have good situational awareness, understand all factors involved, and be prepared to pivot if the situation changes. I found also that it’s important not to be timid, use every available resource to gather the proper information and pull the trigger – in essence, ultimately make a solid decision and stand by it!
After three years of active duty, I left the Army and went to grad school, receiving my M.B.A. My wife and I then moved to Tampa and years later, I retired after a successful business career. Once retired, I wanted to get involved with a military support organization. A friend of mine, retired four-star General Pete Schoomaker, introduced me to SOWF and then President, Colonel John Carney. After a few years of involvement with SOWF, I was asked to join the Board. For the past 18 years, I have been a Board Member and the Secretary. Being involved with SOWF has been an incredible experience and the Foundation has improved in every way. There are more families to assist, and kids to guide, tutor, and prepare for life after school. The Foundation also continues to expand the mission as additional needs are recognized.
Over the years I have introduced many friends to the Foundation and my wife and I have had the pleasure to host five fundraisers at a club in Wyoming, raising about $600,000. Several years ago, when Vice Admiral Joe Maguire was the President, he and I twice rode in horse riding events in Texas. Each was a three-day 100-mile ride, with one of them occurring in an epic Texas ice storm – quite a way (and memory) to raise money!
I encourage all who are reading this to stay involved or get involved, as SOWF is the premiere military support organization in America. Our mission is well-defined and continues to grow through the support of donors and corporations. I am happy to report we are good stewards of all donations and are very mindful of expenses, while delivering exemplary programs and services to the Gold Star families we come to know and remain close to.
In SOWF Ambassador Matt Quinn’s previous SOWFocus leadership article, he wrote about an “attitude of gratitude.” To all Gold Star children reading this piece, I would like to close with some friendly, simple, and constructive advice that, based on my combined military, personal and professional experience, I believe will serve you well:
“It’s your attitude, not your aptitude, that determines your altitude! Show up, on time, and be ready to go!”