Part 1 in a Series of 4 Posts
I’ve always been very patriotic. I’ve had my share of hats throughout the years, so much that my mom thought I’d lose my hair at an early age. My old time favorite hat was a beaten red cap with an American flag patch sewn on. I wore it proudly and still wonder what magical place it now lives in when I see pictures of me wearing it. My favorite boxers in high school were American flag so if I ever decide to run for President that question is now answered. When I was forced to part ways with those boxers they were hanging on by threads. In college, I hung an American flag proudly in my dorm room instead of a poster of Family Guy, Pearl Jam or Christina Aguilera. That flag was presented to my family when my grandfather passed. Now that I think of my grandfather’s flag, it reminds me of where my love for this country came from. My grandfather fought in World War II as a Staff Sargent and served in Italy, Africa and Germany. I remember being in awe of the silver watch with lime green numbers on his wrist as he retold me a story of defeating a German soldier and taking his watch. This story may seem a little intense to some today, but as a fan of the Indiana Jones films, defeating a German soldier and taking his watch as a souvenir was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. I reminded my mom of this story recently and she says he made that up, but I’ll keep the legend of that story in my mind forever.
Burger King and Desert Storm
Forward to Burger King, Danbury, CT in the first month of 1991 when I remember hearing on the radio of the first strikes by the U.S. led coalition in Bagdad, Iraq. I remember feeling the tension in the air and the look on my mom’s face. We were at war. I can also remember that feeling of patriotism and pride that the good guys were going to take care of the bad guys. Again, growing up on G.I. Joe and Hulk Hogan, I had the American Pride. It was that simple for me then and it still is for me today. I still get that same feeling when I see a man or woman in the airport in full camouflage, when I’m watching a sporting event listening to the Star Spangled Banner or when I see that flag blowing in the wind. I’m Irish Catholic. I don’t cry, but I tear up like a child who is watching his balloon fly away.
Let’s fast forward to February 2014 where I’m the Director of Partnership Development for Disability Solutions @Ability Beyond. I’m responsible for establishing positive and sustainable relationships with federal, state, and local partners in order to meet and exceed our corporate clients’ goals for hiring and retaining a qualified workforce. I’ve set up a meeting at the Veteran’s Hospital in Houston, TX with their Employment Program to discuss a potential partnership for our current client in Houston. When I pull in, I realize this place isn’t your normal hospital, but more like a college campus. I park some distance away from my destination, gather my belongings for the meeting and make my way towards the building. As I look around I notice the pedestrians around me and I instantly stand up straight. Not sure if it was to impress them, to try to fit in or going back to that superhero feeling, maybe I was standing tall and proud to be in the presence of men and women who have put their lives on the line for me. My coworkers and I gripe about not having our third cup of coffee by 9am. As I near the building, I see a line of cars ready for the valet. Exiting those cars are men and women who fought for this country and it immediately hit me. I’ve heard the numbers of those who have fallen, but now I’m in the presence of hundreds of individuals who’ve given their body and/or mind and in essence their life to protect this country I’m proud to live in. Again, I probably faked a sneeze and wiped a tear from my eye.
With my next step I was met by a “greeter,” who was dressed to the T, spoke clearly and confidently and knew every detail of that facility, an obligation of his job at the hospital. I let him know I was impressed with his approach to his enthusiasm and knowledge and I get the old, “Just doing my job, sir.” Pointed in the right direction I strolled over to the elevator and pushed the button to my desired floor. Thinking about the impact the last few minutes had in my life, the door slides open and I see 20+ veterans waiting on my presence and their light at the end of the tunnel and back to civilian life.
Damn, these tears.
About Kevin: This series is Kevin’s first blog post and you will decide if it is his last. He grew up wanting to be either a teacher or a screenwriter because he wanted to make people happy through humor. He is neither, but thinks he accomplishes this mission daily. (His wife, daughter, son and co-workers will tell you otherwise. Don’t ask his mom). Kevin is honored to be the Director of Partnership Development at Disability Solutions where he assists clients to recruit, train and hire individuals with disabilities through strong partnerships. He clearly loves Tom Cruise and enjoys spending his free time with his family of four plus three cats.
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