25 February 2011

NCLS: Things I Learned

The past two days here at USAFA, we've had our annual National Character and Leadership Symposium. I had the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of three Medal of Honor recipients, a USAFA grad and A-10 pilot with three Superbowl rings, and a Lost Boy of Sudan who is now a U.S. Olypmian. Here are a few things I learned:
  • Cut a sub in half at an angle; it makes the first bite less awkward. - SSgt. Sal Giunta, Medal of Honor recipient
  • Leaders are readers.
  • There's no criticism for not doing the action for which you would receive a Medal of Honor. - Col (ret) Leo Thorsness, Medal of Honor Recipient, POW for six years
  • Good LT's never send their men to do something; they do it with them. - SSgt Giunta
  • Any day you wake up and there's a door handle on the inside is a good day. - Col Thorsness
  • We weren't created like John Wayne, we were made for community. - Chad Hennings, USAFA 1998, 45 A-10 sorties in Northern Iraq, three Superbowl championships
  • Competition spurs excellence. - SSgt Giunta
  • If you set the bar too low, they will trip over it. - SSgt Giunta
  • It's easier and more cowardly to give a boy an AK-47 and teach him to shoot it than it is to give him paper and pencil and teach him to learn. - Lopez Lomong, Lost Boy of Sudan, U.S. Olympian
  • Education for women and children is most important, everything else will fall into place. - Lomong
I asked SSgt. Giunta, who has been removed from combat operations after receiving the Medal of Honor, if he would rather be back in Afghanistan fighting, or here, talking to people like us. His answer: 
If this is the greater good, if this causes one spark in one cadet's mind, if the people who invited me here to speak think this is more worthwhile, then this. This isn't about me; this is about us.
 As Henry David Thoreau said: "Heroes are often the most ordinary of men." SSgt. Giunta is an ordinary man, and a great hero - and so are his buddies who fought and died alongside him.

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