I graduated high school during the Viet Nam War era. My greatest claim to fame in school was playing on the varsity football team, but it taught this normally reserved guy how to fight hard for a win – no matter how it eluded my comfort zone. It strengthened my resolve exponentially!
Well, I survived and graduated. A couple of months later I enlisted in the army and was quickly trained for active involvement in the Viet Nam war. At just seventeen years old, I was forced to grow up very fast as I adapted to this new experience.
Wow, overnight I had evolved from a high school football player to a soldier in a foreign land torn by war, and a gun in my hand. That experience, which lasted more than two and a half years, perpetuated tremendous growth of character, and unbeknownst to me at the time, my leadership abilities began to develop over there.
Eventually I came home on leave before shipping out to Japan for my final thirteen months of active duty. I had become engaged while I was in Japan, and we set our wedding date for just as soon as I could get my separation from the military.
After four rapid-fire years in the army, I finally came home for good. The boy that left home after high school to serve his country returned so much more mature and eternally grateful for what the military had allowed me to experience and learn from. I now had so much to offer, and yet I still wanted to learn more from what life had to offer.
Well, my lovely fiance had prepared everything back home so we’d be ready to tie the knot just as soon as I got home.
A couple of weeks after I arrived state side, we tied the knot, and have been together for forty-nine years now. Wow, I’m amazed that we’ve done so well and will celebrate fifty years next year. What an achievement!
After working almost ten years for the Southern Pacific Railroad, I made a prolific career change! I joined the Santa Clara Fire Department and began a memorable thirty-year career with them. I worked my way through the ranks and eventually earned the rank of Chief. The lessons learned, and the pride that I felt in this occupation, helped mold me into the leader that I am today.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the command presence that I experienced as a leader in our department, I’m convinced that it was very instrumental in preparing me for leadership in my years teaching fire technology at a local college.
Halfway through my fire career, and for many years after my retirement, I taught at Mission College. I personally instructed many of the hands-on drill ground classes that were designed to build strong firefighters (both emotionally and physically).
I continue to mentor and tutor young firefighter candidates today as they strive to earn a firefighter badge.
I’m continually overwhelmed with pride as I see how my life has evolved from that football field in high school to the seasoned leader that I am today.
I say all of this to make a point. Whether it’s in high school sports, serving in the military during a war, a long career fighting fires, teaching technical skills in a college setting or even experiencing a long and successful marriage, everything in life works supremely when we all pull together.