Our heroes and leaders can come from all walks of life. Memorial Day is especially reserved for mourning those in the U.S. military who have died while serving us. I encourage each of us to pause for a moment to reflect on someone who has made the ultimate sacrifice to protect democracy and our freedom.
My father was a U.S. Coast Guard officer for his adult career. My sister served in the same way in the Coast Guard. In my book, Mavericks & Merlins: Sailors and Renegades leave the coast, how are you?I’m talking about some of the leadership lessons my father gave me:
I pay tribute to my father for instilling in me a solid grasp of what it takes to be an effective leader. We talked about what makes a good skipper, and sometimes he took me on a short cruise in the bay aboard a Coast Guard ship. I saw how the crew respected him, how he made sure to cultivate leaders in the various departments and how he gave younger officers opportunities to learn new skills that would enable them to advance to higher rank positions. He led by example and always calmly communicated what he wanted to do without being Captain Bligh.
Bill Merlin always talked about educating people to do their job and then letting them do that job regardless of rank. When it comes to saving others, rank success does not determine. The U.S. Coast Guard reverently refers to Douglas Munro, who exemplified what they do.
An article, This World War II hero is the only Coast Guard member with a medal of honornoted the heroic sacrifice Douglas Munro made for his brothers in battle:
He took five of the small craft under his command and ordered a rescue mission, constantly under continuous attack from the shore. Because the boats were too small to carry all the Marines at once, Munro and his fellow coastguards had to make several dangerous journeys back and forth. At one point, a group of Marines came under particularly intense shelling. In an attempt to provide protection, Munro used his own boat as a shield between the shore head and the other boats.
When the last group of marines were evacuated from the island, Munro was hit by a fatal outbreak of enemy fire. Focused on his mission to the end, his dying words to his friend Evans, who was with him on stage, were: “Are they running away?”; His victims had rescued hundreds of Marines. In a letter to his grieving parents, informing them of their loss, Munro’s commander wrote that, without exception, those under his responsibility praised Munro. His master sergeant wrote that Douglas was “kind, polite, caring, and above all brave,” the kind of American who did [that] war worth fighting. ‘
Let us take a moment today to remember those who died in the service of our military and especially those who did bravely without high rank and just did their job.
If you can, save them a place inside you and save a look back when you leave for the places they can no longer go. Don’t be ashamed to say you loved them, even though you may or may not always have. Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in the time when men decide and feel safe to call the war crazy, take a moment to embrace the gentle heroes you left behind.
—Major Michael Davis O’Donnell