On the morning of June 6th, 1944, Theodore Roosevelt stormed ashore Utah Beach in route to a Medal of Honor and an eternal place in military history. Lest you think I’ve gotten my history confused, it was indeed Theodore Roosevelt Jr. who, at the age of 56, was the oldest man to land with the American forces on D-Day. Theodore was, of course, the son of famed Rough Rider and man extraordinaire, President Teddy Roosevelt. Not to be outdone by pappa Teddy, Junior was not only 56, but he suffered from arthritis and was forced to walk with a cane. You see, it was never in the plans to send the elderly General Theodore Roosevelt on the first wave of D-Day. It was General Roosevelt who, after being denied multiple times, petitioned to be with the first wave. After command finally relented, they shook his hand expecting never to see him alive again. On the morning of June 6th, General Roosevelt landed with the first wave on Utah beach only to find out that the boats had waded a mile south of their intended location. As the confused men struggled for orientation, Roosevelt calmly and collectively simply replied, “We’ll start the war from right here.” My fellow veterans, Veteran’s Day is over and you’re stomach is full of all the free hot wings America has to offer. Wherever you find yourself today in life, be it a position of stature or at your lowest low, let me suggest to you today that regardless of your circumstances, we’ll start the war from right here.
Starting the War from Right Here
I’m not sure where you find yourself in life right now, but I’ve got the nagging suspicion that it’s a far cry better than a mile from your intended location on D-Day. You may be facing bankruptcy, divorce, addiction or worse, but the Third Reich is not before you and you can take a lesson from General Roosevelt and the men of D-Day. Starting the war from here is about taking stock of the sum of your present realities and spending very little time on pity, before accepting the inevitable reality. Of course you will start the war from here when the English Channel is behind you. What choice do you have and I submit to you, what choice do you have today when the irretrievable past is behind you?
You can no more swim back into the past to undo your previous choices than the men on the beaches of D-Day could swim back across the English Channel to safety. Wherever you woke up on November 12th, 2019, you find yourself in a position with no other choice than to start the war to live your life from right here. Go ahead and lay out the full spectrum of the maladies, problems, and debts before you and I’ll respond with the exact same answer. Namely, “we’ll start the war from right here.” Consider how you want your life to look by next veteran’s day and take one step today in the right direction. If that’s simply not taking a drink today, then start the war for sobriety right here. Perhaps that is paying off debts, then put a dollar down and start the war on debt today. If that’s reclaiming relationships fractured, then pick up the phone and start the war to reclaim your loved ones today.
The Blessing & Burden of Military Life
While I believe that the military contributes much to one’s ability to thrive and be successful in life, I’ve often feared that it also has done much to hold people back. Once you join the military, you are pretty much set up to succeed, in the military that is. Just show up to work and your salary is basically guaranteed for 4 years. Perhaps only in Iraq did I fully appreciate the grave consequences of failure, but for the most part military life is a breeze compared to the demands of actual life. It also doesn’t help that much of society praises you for simply being, just like the military will pay you for simply being present.
Just take those sweet loving surprise homecoming celebration videos we see on the internet. Look, I’m ok with surprise homecoming military celebration videos. What I am not ok with are unworthy, surprise homecoming military celebration videos and we see them all the time. If your butt has been spending the past 9 months in Southern California chasing tail and drinking with your fellow Marines, you have no business showing up at you little brother’s elementary school dressed like the mascot when you go home on leave to surprise your little brother.
Now kids have to miss out on math and history to applaud your ignorant self for dodging a chlamydia and DUIs. This doesn’t call for all that. You don’t get a homecoming just because you left home. If you haven’t been anywhere dirty, you don’t get a homecoming celebration in my book. My point being, and I’m not sure how many fellow veterans agree with me, but the military can equally set you up for failure if you don’t realize that you start a new war the moment you step out of uniform. Listen, I’ve been a hiring manager for nearly 20 years now and I’ll testify to you that not all veterans are equal. Some veterans have forgotten how to fight a war like it matters and it shows in how they perform at work. Some of them expect to simply show up for formation and contribute little until its quitting time. I’ll give any veteran a chance, but I’ll not carry any veteran if they refuse to fight.
Fight the War for Those Who Can’t
I’ll close my post-Veteran’s day writings with another lesson from history. It was Memorial Day 1945 when General Lucian Truscott took to the stage in front of a crowd of dignitaries at the Rome-Sicily cemetery in Italy. The Allies were making their final pushes into Germany and a short time earlier General Truscott had been leading many of the men buried here during the brutal Italian campaign. Expecting Tuscott to recount the tales of their sacrifice, the crowd was shocked when the General turned his back to them and began to address the fallen soldiers directly.
Truscott began to apologize to his fallen men saying “…everyone tells leaders it is not their fault that men get killed in war, but that every leader knows in his heart that is not altogether true.” He carried on telling his men that if they were there for any mistake of his he asked if they would forgive him. Although he recognized and state that was “asking a hell of a lot under the circumstances.” He carried on saying how he would not stand to hear older men speak of the glories of dying in combat as “he didn’t see much glory in getting killed in your late teens or early 20s.”
If you need any additional motivation to start the war from here, just consider those who can not. There was nothing glorious about the sniper’s bullet or the IED that took their life in their late teens and early 20’s. I’d submit that apart from spending eternity with Jesus himself, they’d jump at the opportunity to start their war from where you are today. Imagine where you want to be next Veteran’s Day right now and begin to make it so. Start the war from right here. Go ahead and write down everything you face and declare to yourself with the same fortitude as Teddy Jr. and say, “we’ll start the war from right here.” Semper Fi, Godspeed, YUT and more, but get going.