Sullivan: The noble calling of being a soldier is recognized

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Two particularly instructive events have occurred recently that illuminate the profession of arms and its role in American life.

One happened during the State of the Union speech when President Obama honored the service and sacrifice of Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, a young soldier he met during a D-Day commemoration and then met again after he was badly injured while serving during his tenth deployment to the war zone.

The president explained how Sergeant Remsburg has fought back from near death, loss of vision and paralysis with a determination to continue to serve the nation.

The Congress put aside its partisanship and gave him almost two minutes of ovation and cheering, for a moment acknowledging that, embodied in the grit, determination and "never quit" attitude of that noble soldier, was the spirit of our nation – that we can overcome our differences just as Sergeant Remsburg is overcoming his limitations.

I find it heartening that it was a soldier and his story that brought the Congress to its feet.

Our Association represents soldiers of all ranks and components and their families, retired soldiers, former soldiers, survivors of soldiers, cadets who will be soldiers, federal civilians who work alongside soldiers and citizens who support soldiers.

Most of those who work for the Association fit into one of those categories.

We know the life a soldier leads, the hardships soldiers and their families endure, the joys of service and the sadness of separation, loss and sacrifice, and while we know these things, putting them down on paper can be difficult, getting to the heart of the story can be elusive, finding the right words to convey the nobility and brotherhood of military service can seem just out of reach.

So when I read a recent speech given by Admiral William H. McRaven, commander of the United States Special Operations Command, to the West Point Class of 2015 on the 500th night before they graduate and begin their active service, I was struck by the insightful way his words conveyed the thoughts that I, and I am sure my AUSA colleagues, have had but never quite got down on paper. It is instructive that he is a sailor, part of the brotherhood of arms, who has spent much of his military career with soldiers.

He pairs an "outsider’s" keen observation with the knowledge of an "insider" to create a primer on the nobility of service and particularly on leadership within that service – directed in this case to future officers, but really apropos of leadership at every level.

A modest man whom I respect enormously and whose leadership has had incalculable positive impact on the security of our nation, he paints a picture that may bring tears to your eyes, but for all those who are or have been soldiers, or who support and love soldiers, surely will make you stand a little taller and make your heart beat a little faster – the heart of the noble soldier and those who stand in support.

Army Strong!