Forgetting Private Ryan


Forgetting Private Ryan

Let’s NOT forget Private Ryan. Or forget any of our greatest servant leaders!

This upcoming US holiday, Memorial Day weekend, when you’re enjoying your neighborhood bar-b-que or holiday getaway, will you take the time to honor our soldiers who have lost their lives serving our country? Will you reflect upon the soldiers in Iraq, and those stationed throughout the world,  who are so willing to make the ultimate sacrifice? They are sacrificing more than just a day off of work, or a friendly backyard get together. They are sacrificing their lives. 

Do you believe a soldier’s contribution portrays the ultimate example of servant leadship? Does a soldier provide a pure example of one who leads by serving others?

As Robert K. Greenleaf described in his essay, The Servant as Leader, “The servant leader is servant first . . . It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.”

One CNN report of United States statistics shows 4,297 Americans have lost their lives in the war in Iraq. This number is grim, but it doesn’t tell the  stories of sacrifice these soldiers made. It  doesn’t describe how they unselfishly led by example–how these servants lived, and and how they died.

Honor Our Eldest
An inspirational illustration of one leading through service is that of Army Maj. Steven Hutchison, who died May 10th, 2009, when a bomb exploded near his vehicle in the town of Al Farr. Maj. Hutchison was 60 years old–the oldest US soldier to die in Iraq. Maj. Hutchinson had wanted to re-enlist in the army immediately following 9/11. But at the request of his wife, Candy, he held off. After her death from breast cancer, he gave up his life of retirement, and in July of 2007, Steven Hutchison re-joined the army. His brother, Richard Hutchison, states, “He was very devoted to the service and to his country.”

Honor our Matrons
Another example of a soldier’s servant leadership is Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa. Pfc. Piestewa died March 23, 2003, after the Humvee she was driving was ambushed near Nasiriyah. Pfc. Piestewa tried unsuccessfully to hold off the attackers. She was a single mother, leaving behind a 4 year-old boy and 3 year-old girl, and is the first Native American woman to die in the line of US military duty. Pfc. Piestewa grew up following in the military tradition of her father and grandfather, who both served our country.

Honor our Youngest
The first US soldier to lose their life in Iraq was 22 year-old Marine Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez. Corporal Gutierrez was killed near Umm Qasr on March 21, 2003. According to his foster mother, Nora Mosquera, Corporal Gutierrez joined the army because he not only wanted to earn money for college and to send to his sister in Guatemala, he wanted to give back to his adopted country. Corporal Gutirrez had lost both of his parents by the time he was 4, and grew up on the streets of Guatemala City. At the age of 14, determined to come to the United States, he hopped trains, hitchhiked and walked, in a quest for a better life.

In his article, “Be a Leader, Not a Follower”, Neel Ramen describes the qualities of a leader. He states,

“It means you live by example; you set personal goals and standards, and mark your place in the universe and stand by it so that others can be inspired to do the same.”

Are you living by example? Do you inspire those around you? Where will you mark your place in the universe? Are you living as a servant leader? Do you have a story about a soldier that you want to share?

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Leslie Kohler is
She can be reached at 
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