Veterans Day 2020
Veteran’s Day honors all those who have served our country and is celebrated each year on November 11th. I am extremely proud to have served our country for almost 21 years and cannot believe that I have been retired from the United States Army for over 5 years already. As I reflect on the time that I served our country, so many memories come to mind. But the thing that stands out is how grateful I am for the many amazing people I have met, served with and created relationships with. So many of my brothers and sisters in arms became my family over the years and remain that way today. As I was considering what I wanted to write about for this special day, I thought that instead of elaborating on and attempting to describe what today means to me, I would share a story with you. This story is one of many that highlights the power of kindness and connection.
I had the honor and privilege to do some amazing things during my time in the Army. From attending a Medal of Honor Ceremony at the White House to serving on the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Advisory Board for Surviving families, to leading the first Dental Company in the Army to deploy to Afghanistan to jumping out of airplanes. My time in the Army was so very special to me. And although those things are all wonderful, they aren’t the things that made my service a time I wouldn’t trade for the world. It’s the people that I served with. When I think back, I am in awe of the number of people who touched my life. Some in big ways, and others in small ways. These experiences ultimately made a huge impact on my life and I am very grateful for it.
BEATRIZ FLORES. Wow, where do I even begin? I met Bea (then SGT Flores) when I became the First Sergeant of the 257th Dental Company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in early 2008. To put things into perspective, this was the first time that I was assigned to an organization that was deployable; an organization that had vehicles, generators, tents and field equipment. Prior to this time, I had always served in fixed dental facilities as either a dental assistant, clinic manager or in various administrative roles. This was a whole new world to me and I was excited and eager to learn but also very nervous. How could I possibly lead this organization well when I had absolutely no experience with a mission such as this one? (If any of you are familiar with imposter syndrome, you will understand what this felt like for me.) Not only that, but I had never driven an Army truck, fired up a generator or even put together a field dental setup before. I decided prior to my first day that I was going to be the leader I already was, and not pretend to be anything different. I always used to say that in order to be a good leader, you must be a good follower. To me that involves always learning, always growing. Enter Bea Flores. She was the Motor Sergeant for the unit and showed me around the motor pool, introducing me to all of our trucks, generators and equipment. She was extremely professional and knowledgeable, but never made me feel inadequate or any less of a leader, in an environment that I am sure I was obviously unfamiliar with. This was back in early 2008, so I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went but at some point I shared with her that I wanted to learn any and everything about all of our equipment. It was important to me. Again, I don’t remember all the details but I do clearly recall the feeling I had when working with Bea. She was more than happy to teach me everything I wanted to learn. She taught me how to drive all the different vehicles we had. She showed me how to start, troubleshoot and maintain a generator. Bea taught me all of that and so much more. We worked together for hours, days and weeks here and there so that I could become familiar with all of these unfamiliar things. More than that though, Bea taught me a few very important lessons which I will never forget:
There is so much power in the way we treat and talk to people, especially when they are scared, uncomfortable or nervous. Be kind, to everyone.
The knowledge that we have within us is meant to be shared. Doing so allows for so much more goodness to occur rather than keeping it to ourselves.
The time I spent with Bea Flores in the 257th Dental Company was actually fairly short, however, the impact she made on me as a young First Sergeant in an organization that I was a bit intimidated by, was priceless. Thank you, Bea.
There are so many similar stories that I recall throughout my time in the Army. Stories of people who touched my life forever through their actions. I can’t possibly name each person, although I wish I could. I think a great way to bring my reflection on Veteran’s Day to a close is to say that if we ever served together, I want to use this opportunity to say “thank you”. Thank you for your service and for touching my life. I appreciate each and every one of you and your service.
If you have served with someone who positively impacted your life, I invite you to take a moment to recognize them, no matter how big or small. Together, we can create a wave of kindness this Veteran’s Day.