By Gino Blefari
This week my travels took me to the Great State of Texas for a visit with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty Texas team in Dallas and the HSF Affiliates LLC IT group in Houston. Usually, this would be the time during “Thoughts on Leadership” when I would describe what happened over the course of the past few days. But for this post, in honor of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday and its spirit of remembrance and reverence, I want to tell a tale that isn’t my own.
I recently read “Talk like TED” by Carmine Gallo, all about ways to deliver a more impactful speech. The book inspired me to watch some of the best from TED, an organization that brings together the world’s most thought-provoking minds to present on any number of subjects from the emotions of chimpanzees to the poor design of city flags. Last year, TED featured Wes Moore, who spoke about “How to Talk to Veterans about the War.”
Moore was a former U.S. Army captain and paratrooper, a valiant leader who admitted with surprising candor at the beginning of his speech, “I didn’t go to the army because I wanted to go to war.” Moore had been a disciplinary problem for his mother from an early age and so, in an effort to rehabilitate her son, she sent him off to military school, thinking that might do the trick.
And it did. It was at military school that Moore realized he was “part of something bigger, part of team.” Here he came to learn “leadership wasn’t just a punch line but an actual core part of the experience.”
However, after school, while Moore’s military friends were being sent to places “people couldn’t point out on a map,” Moore went overseas to study at Oxford University. As he learned about history from textbooks, his former comrades were making history miles from his classroom. This didn’t sit well with the military-trained student.
After earning a Master of Letters in International Relations from Oxford, Moore served in Afghanistan. When he returned home after his tour of duty, he faced a harsh new reality. As he mentions in his talk, Moore was most surprised about those who simply told him “thank you for your service.” The phrase, as he explains, often rings hollow for soldiers wanting more than gratitude. “For so many people as they come back home, the war keeps playing out in their mind and memories,” Moore explains. “It’s not easy to fall back into a sense of normality because the whole normal has changed.”
So, what’s the message? Instead of thankfulness, Moore says veterans just want to be heard. “Thank you for your service needs to be more than just a quote break,” he says. Like Moore, many returning veterans have a story to tell and want an audience who will listen. And for those soldiers who lost their lives in battle, on this Memorial Day, let’s not only thank these brave fighters for their service but also remember that their lives now represent stories left untold.