The military, being a soldier, an officer, a veteran. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my men, the life, and all that it encompassed for me. I wanted to be a soldier as far back as I could remember. My uncle was a 4-star general on the Island of Cyprus. Prior to that he was a 4-star general in Greece. His name was General Matafias.
My earliest memory of him was joining him at the mess tent during an exercise in Cyprus. I must have been 6 or 7 and I remember sitting down with him and eating beans with bread. It was a chilly morning and you could see the steam rising from the beans. He said, “Son you have to live, eat and fight like your soldiers. So you know what the limit of their endurance is.” I was excited, thrilled. There I was with a 4-star general, a hero during the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus where his battalion defended against a larger invading force. The story goes that he stood behind his battalion and gave orders that if any soldier or officer retreated he would personally shoot them. He made a name for himself at that battle and inspired a young boy to dream big.
Years later I immigrated to the United States, thanks to my grandmother, and attended college for two years. But I could not resist enlisting in the Army. My parents hated it, but it was my dream and no one was holding me back.
Fast forward 10 years. FORSCOM Soldier of the Year, promoted to Sgt in two years, selected for Officer Candidate School, a bunch of hoorah chest thumping, schools, deployments, adventures, marriages. I was finally medically discharged due to injuries. Leaving the Army was the hardest thing I ever did, harder than leaving school or any deployment. But as with any difficult situation, what comes of it depends on how you attack the problem. You can sit back and let events run your life, or you can take charge. I had read General Schwarzkopf’s book and I remembered a specific part in the book. He had just gotten back from successive tours in Vietnam and was stationed in Alaska. Sitting on the stairs of his home he told himself he had to make a mental decision to move forward. And he did.
And so have I. I adjusted to civilian life and now find myself the CEO of a great company. From this position I can help fellow veterans directly through employment or through donations to organizations like Wounded Warrior Project. And when things get sticky, this part of General Douglas MacArthur’s speech, which we were forced to memorize at OCS, rings in my head: “Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”