Next Monday, we celebrate Veteran’s Day–an official day of recognition and tribute to the 18.8 million individuals living in the United States who have honorably given their service in the military. While I honor and celebrate this day officially once every year, every day, here at The Fedcap Group, we are honored to serve our veterans as part of our work to eliminate barriers and support economic well-being.
At the Fedcap Group, we are very proud of our affiliation with Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services. Dixon Center works with returning service members, veterans, and military families nationwide to create a network of support, resources, and partners to connect them to better access to resources for health and wellness, stable housing, and continuing education to support fulfilling careers. They are making a significant impact in over 750 communities in all 50 United States.
This week, I am pleased to introduce Dixon Center’s Chairman, Retired Colonel David Sutherland. Colonel Sutherland commanded the U.S. combat Brigade in Diyala Province, Iraq, from 2006-2007, and he served as Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2009-2012. I am happy to share an op-ed piece he wrote for InsideSources.com:
If you had told me how I’d look back with fondness on the time I served as brigade commander during the worst of Diyala Province in 2006-2007, I would have smirked. Of course I’d love being a veteran, I can imagine my younger self thinking. It meant I would be anywhere but Iraq.
Ten years — six of them since retiring from the Army — have given me perspective. I love being a veteran not because it means optional workouts, less bureaucracy or not having to uproot my family, but because it’s given me an even greater sense of pride in who I am and with whom I served.
I’m a limited edition, part of a unique club. It’s not that veterans, who make up less than 10 percent of the U.S. population, are all that different than everyone else. We simply have different life experiences. Ironically, until I’d been out of the service for two years, I didn’t realize how much I loved and missed those experiences.
The longevity of these life experiences carries through now that I’m in the private sector. Though they translate to all generations, they are especially relevant to millennials, who will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.
First, the military taught me to stand up for your people. Good leaders protect their teams so that they are able to accomplish what they’ve been asked to do. I love the fact that I can look back and say, “You know what? I advocated for my people, and I take great pride in what they accomplished.”
Second, you learn to be patient. I often wish I’d be more patient with my lieutenants, who were often fresh out of school with little experience, yet possessed a core desire to step up and do the right thing.
Finally, I found out how much engagement matters. I challenge mainstream business to create the trust, pride and esprit de corps I felt as part of my units within the business environment. In 2nd Battalion 7th Infantry, we accepted challenges with “willing and able.” In the 82nd Airborne, we’d reply, “All the way, sir” and in the 1st Cavalry Division, the proper response was “Live the legend, sir.” Employees in a high trust environment such as the Army are six times more likely to achieve higher levels of performance than others in their industry.
When I came home from Iraq, friends asked me, “What did you do over there?” Family asked me, “How do you feel about what you did?” I asked myself, “What did I accomplish?” These are important questions. Veterans Day is an opportunity for all of us — civilian and veteran — to reflect on the achievements and accomplishments of this unique population. Rather than wish someone a Happy Veterans Day, I encourage you to ask them to share their reflections on their time in uniform.
We veterans share the knowledge that nothing is daunting. Sure, we may stumble. We may have challenges. But there is always a solution. It’s simply how hard you want to work to find it.
I don’t regret leaving the military. I remain part of its legacy. While I travel around the country speaking about leadership I take great pride in showcasing the achievements of my fellow veterans.
I love being a limited edition.
I love being a veteran.