I can still remember the grainy television images of the smoke billowing into the sky, people screaming, sirens blaring. The images of hundreds of body bags stacked neatly beside the rubble, juxtaposed against a noisy backdrop of frenetic movement. It was October 23rd, 1983, just 8 short years after the end of the Vietnam War. I was young, impressionable, and now, full of rage. It was that day that I first contemplated military service, though it would be a couple of years later until I would be old enough to actually join.
Music and fashion weren’t the only things torn asunder in the 1980s. We were locked into the Cold War with the Soviets. The Soviets had missiles in Syria, capable of reaching Israel, and the Soviets/Cubans were monkeying around on the island of Grenada, not far from our own shores. Two days after the barracks bombing in Beirut, the United States invaded Grenada. President Reagan, who later became my first Commander-in-Chief, delivered a powerful speech to the nation about both events a few days later. It was a crazy time.
Those of you who know me personally have a public view of me: a tech geek, father of two little girls, wacky sense of humor, and passionate about startups and entrepreneurship. But there is another side of me that many of you don’t know. One that is deeply patriotic, and incredibly respectful of the traditions and sacrifices Americans have made throughout our history.
This past Saturday was Independence Day, and like so many of you, I enjoyed the fireworks with my family. Our 3 1/2 year old daughter cackled with glee at each explosion and burst of color. But as each stream of color and smoke faded into the night, I said a small prayer for those warriors that died on the morning of October 23rd, 1983. I said a small silent thanks to Lang, Dreier, Combites, Rivers, Cortez, Woodberry, Bamford, Starling, Strieter, Sinke, Fuller, Mitchell, Evans, Sciortino, Teal, Rey, and all the rest of the guys I served with in Delta/HHC companies, 3rd Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment, 3d Infantry Division, VII Corps. Most of us couldn’t wait to get out of the Army, but as the years have rolled by, I think we all look back fondly on that shared experience.
Through Winter Warrior I and II, four Grafenwoehr gunnery densities, countless deployments to Hohenfels and Area Mud, REFORGER, Border Patrol, and all those 2:00am lariat advances and base lockdowns, we develop a shared history and bond that remains to this day. To my fellow Marne Dogs of the 64th Armored Regiment, and the 3rd Infantry Division: “Rock of the Marne. Rampage. We Pierce!”
My favorite song is, and since October 1983 has been, our national anthem. I still choke up whenever I hear it. During a recent recording of the StartupLounge podcast, I was waiting for my cohort Mike Blake to finish munching a doughnut so we could get on with the recording (yes, I’m not kidding). For no reason at all, I burst into singing my favorite song. Of course, the mics were on, and the tape was rolling. Doh! Afterwards, I chuckled a bit, but Mike thought we should work it in the final edit of the show, as (at the time of taping that show) Memorial Day was approaching. So, we edited it in, complete with an added stadium effect. I got a lot of emails about the song after we published the podcast, and I thought I would include an audio snippet here in this blog post.
Now with the musical portion of the post over with, I’d like to make a brief announcement. I’ve teamed up with Jason Jones (CresaPartners), a fellow veteran (TOP-GUN!) who flew A-6 Intruder missions off the deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise, to form VetLoop.com.
VetLoop is a unique (not-for-profit) community of veterans in the Atlanta community that aims to:
Once we roll it out in Atlanta, we would like to see the concept spread to other cities as well.
I found this great definition of a veteran online somewhere:
A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America” for an amount of “up to and including my life.”