6 important lessons everyone can learn from American veterans

Extraordinary courage, camaraderie, dedication, sacrifice: these characteristics epitomize the soldiers defending American freedom in warzones across the world. But those tremendous qualities do not disappear when our brave men and women return to the home front, and there’s much for us all to learn from their valor.

“Because many of us have not served in the military, we lack a direct connection to the men and women who protect our country. There are so many lessons we can learn from their sacrifice that can help anyone live better,” says Howard Schultz, president, chairman and ceo of Starbucks Coffee Company. “Over 95 percent of Americans have no direct tie to the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Is it healthy for a nation to be so detached from those that protect it? Is there more we can be doing to engage our veterans than simply saying thank you?”

In a new book, “For Love of Country,” Schultz and co-author Rajiv Chandrasekaran, associate editor at The Washington Post, tell stories of breathtaking valor and put forward a compelling account of the contributions veterans are making at home and abroad, arguing that our engagement with them is vital.

“To do right by our veterans,” Chandrasekaran says, “we have to recognize what they have accomplished and understand the skills and values and discipline they have acquired.” Here are six lessons from our veterans than can better your own life. For more information about “For Love of Country” and additional stories of valor, visit ForLoveofCountryBook.com.

1. Recognize the importance of sacrifice
During an insurgent attack, Sergeant Leroy Petry saw a live grenade land a few feet from two fellow soldiers. Knowing it had a four-and-a-half-second fuse, he grabbed the grenade and tossed it away, expecting to sacrifice his life for his colleagues. His sacrifice saved his comrades, and earned him a Medal of Honor. What are the sacrifices you can make for a friend, for a colleague, for your family? Sometimes, it’s necessary to put others before yourself.

2. Embrace change
Service men and women are subject to constant change: a sudden transfer that requires a move across the globe or an injury that limits what the body can do. In an ever-changing environment, change must be embraced with optimism, enthusiasm and resilience. Are you prepared to make a move for the benefit of your family? Or are you ready to take on a new role at work? While change may seem disruptive, reacting to it quickly and calmly will benefit you in your career and personal relationships so that no matter what changes, you can always come out on top.

3. Face adversity head on
Kellie McCoy was the first female engineer officer to join the Army’s famed 307th Engineer Battalion. Her comrades wrote her off as unfit for the job, but she addressed the adversity head-on, and today she is a captain at Fort Drum, NY. The world is dominated by sexism, racism, and class disputes – speak up about these issues. It will open up a dialogue that challenges precedents and opens the door for new opportunities.

4. Always offer help
When the Hunter family lost their son and their home to a quarter-mile-wide EF4 tornado in Arkansas, Team Rubicon, a disaster response crew founded by retired Marines and staffed by volunteer veterans arrived at the scene quickly to help by picking through debris, cooking food, and offering comfort in a time of need. The Hunters found solace – and so did the veterans who helped restore order in the wake of the tragedy. Do you get calls from telemarketers and emails from foundations? Money can be a great help in a time of crisis, but don’t always reach for your checkbook: seek out ways to donate time and assistance, and you’ll be amazed at the connection you’ll feel to your community.

5. Discipline, determination, dedication
Pressed uniforms, strict workout routines and dietary regimens, proper address of superiors: the military is well-known for its high standards, a strict set of rules that underscore respect and attract admiration. Drill sergeants may not populate civilian life, but consider this: disciplining your mind and body to adhere to a routine requires determination and dedication – two characteristics that can lead you to achieve goals. Looking to land a new job? Polish up your resume and take on more responsibilities. Looking to lose some weight? Plan your meals and create a workout routine. A strict routine will demand the discipline, determination and dedication necessary to succeed.

6. Persevere under stress
Imagine yourself in combat on a battlefield. Bombs falling and enemies looking for a quick victory: it’s one of the most stressful situations and yet, there is no time to stress – life and death can be determined in a matter of seconds. Obsessing over a stressful situation will only prolong it, and without clear thinking and planning, will you get the result you’re looking for? Take what is stressful in your life, analyze it without agonizing over it, and plan for the best result – then execute it.


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