[January 30, 2019] A few years ago I found my very first Platoon Leader on a military website. He had pinned mosquito wings (Private E-2) onto my collar while stationed in Siegelsbach, West Germany and given me some much-needed assistance and advice. I was able to show gratitude and appreciation for his help by thanking him.
“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” – Aesop, Greek fabulist and storyteller
None of us, not even the most independent, have made it here entirely on your own. There are those who have raised us, put up with our antics, loved us throughout, and helped us through difficult times. They are also compassionate enough to tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. Take some time to thank them. Don’t put it off.
I never took the time to properly thank my grandparents who made it possible for me to be a better person. Deep down, I know they understand, as they always did and as parents always seem to find a way to understand. But it is still a burden I will carry to my grave. Take some time to thank those who helped you.
A simple thank-you will do wonders. You may never know how much that expression of gratitude and appreciation will mean. I thanked my old Platoon Leader (at the time a First Lieutenant but retiring as a Colonel) for all he had done for me and for being compassionate enough to tell me about my deficiencies when I was a Private.
I told him that after his 30 years of military service that I was probably among a long list of soldiers who had contacted him to thank him for what he had done for us and his long and honorable service; including combat in Vietnam. He said, “No, you’re the first.”
With the wisdom that only comes with the passage of years, senior soldiers warned me presciently and ominously, “Son, you live long enough in combat, and you’ll see.” They were right; on so right. Being a soldier is humbling and one of the hardest things you will ever do. Surviving and succeeding are made up of a series of decisions; some harder than others, some good and some bad.
What makes us better is that we learn from them and have people like First Lieutenant Fujimori at our side. He taught me that in the U.S. Army that life is not easy for any of us. He and many others of this generation of military leaders had earned their way the hard way; by the harsh realities of war and the unfairness of a peacetime bureaucracy. He taught me that to show gratitude and appreciation are the hallmarks of a moral leader.