I just returned from my 25 year West Point reunion. It was great to be with friends who went through the same trials and tribulations I did in order to graduate from America’s premier leadership development school.
A few quick impressions:
- Those guys looked old!
- We aren’t losing our hair. We are gaining forehead.
- West Point did an incredible job developing leaders in the Class of 1988!
The purpose of West Point is to produce leaders of character who are prepared to provide selfless service to our Army and the nation.
The legacy of that purpose can be seen 25 years after graduation in my classmates from the Class of 1988. My classmates are leading everywhere: in the military, in the business world and in some other very intriguing places.
Leading in The Military
A number of my classmates have earned promotions to Brigadier General. These officers made General on a fast track. They all have stellar records of service. Most have served on multiple deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Some have earned Purple Hearts in defense of our country. I have no doubt that some of these classmates will be leading thousands of soldiers into combat in the future. I am proud to be affiliated with them all and to call many of them friends.
A larger group of my classmates have not made it to Brigadier General (yet). Some of them will. Promotions are a funny thing and can be unpredictable at this level. But here are a few examples of heroes that I also consider friends:
- He was the brigade commander for the last US unit to leave Iraq. He is now in Washington DC working for the Secretary of the Army. He is one of the best leaders I know.
- This friend spent more time in combat as a member of Delta Force than I am allowed to know about. He also commanded a battalion in combat in Iraq. His uniform is a rainbow of medals. He currently works as a liaison for the Army to our legislators on Capital Hill. He is one of the most humble heroes I know.
- Finally, this friend battled cancer as a young officer. He left the military and then signed up again in order to become a doctor. He served in Iraq taking care of our soldiers, Iraqi soldiers and even our enemies. He now practices medicine at West Point. He is one of the best dads I know.
Leading in Business
A lot of us went into business after leaving the military. Some have risen to the top of the food chain in their companies. These are just a few impressive examples:
- A CEO of a biopharmaceutical firm developing cancer-fighting medications.
- A COO of a well-known retail conglomerate featured in every mall in America.
- A COO of one of the largest convenient store chains in our country.
- A COO of one of the largest railroad operators in the United States.
- A COO of the largest military recruiting firm helping our veterans find employment after serving us in the military.
These classmates are leading organizations and making decisions that affect the lives and livelihoods of 1000’s of people every day. Included in that list is a former roommate. But, I consider all of them good friends.
Leading in Intriguing Places
Countless other classmates are leading without fanfare. They lead with a passion for doing what is right and just. We may never hear of these people on Fox News or CNBC, but they are making a difference by leading where they are.
- He is a classmate with a leadership development company in Southeast Asia. He is leading by developing young leaders in these emerging countries. His vision is long term and his impact could last for generations.
- She is a classmate who runs the entrepreneur program at a well-known university in one of our largest cities. She is also leading a leadership development program for K-12 educational administrators based on West Point leadership values and business leadership principles. She is attempting to change the educational system in a city of over 4 million people.
- He is a classmate who climbed onto an elevator with me this weekend with 5 kids. Two of these kids were obvious adoptions due to differing ethnicity. He has taken on adoption as a calling and is leading his children to a better life.
- She is a classmate who is almost done raising her children. She has now volunteered to be a court appointed advocate for children removed from dangerous home situations. She goes to court and argues for what is best for these often abused and neglected children. She is leading by making a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.
The Bottom Line:
My classmates from the Class of 1988 all served our country in the military upon graduation. We all put on the uniform and served our country after four years of character development at West Point.
Now, some continue to serve our country in the military with courage and valor, putting their lives on the line for you and I. Others are building companies that employ 1000’s and strengthen our national economy. While many are leading quietly without recognition, but changing lives everywhere they go.
West Point produces leaders of character who are prepared to provide selfless service to our Army and the nation. The legacy of that purpose can be seen in the stories of just a handful of my distinguished classmates.
“Duty, Honor, Country”
The West Point motto is lived out daily in the lives of these graduates. West Point has a long history of producing leaders. I am humbled to be part of that legacy. I pray to God I can follow the example set by my classmates and honor The Long Gray Line the way they are 25 years after graduation.
What lessons can we all learn from these great Americans?