I learned yesterday that my very first First Sergeant has passed away. He later became our Unit's Sergeant Major. SGM Meeks was, the best way I can describe him, "a jolly man". He did look and act a lot like Santa with his big waistline and jolly laugh. What I remember most about him is just how personable he was. He greeted everyone he saw with a hearty grin and enthusiastic greeting. He always took the time to ask about your personal life and encouraged you to pursue whatever dreams and goals you had. He, by no means, was the epitome of athleticism, but what he lacked in that area, he more than made up for in brains. This man was SMART (in all caps). He was as quick as a whip and always had a solution to any problem. He was never arrogant with those smarts. He didn't talk down to people because they couldn't figure things out like he could. He had such a gentle way of guiding the Senior NCOs. He was stern when he needed to be, but even then you never took his retributions as a personal insult. He was just pointing out the error and giving you the opportunity to take the time and the initiative to fix it. You would never guess it because of his always jolly nature, but this guy was a Combat Veteran. He had stories for days about his time in Vietnam. He never told these stories with bragging or malice. He told these stories with a quiet reverence. You knew what he had experienced was horror beyond comprehension, but he never let any of that come out in his stories. He was a Soldier's Soldier, an expert, smart, efficient, personable, encouraging, someone you knew you could rely upon if the shit hit the fan and also someone you would love to sit and have a beer with. I can say only twice in my post-military career have I encountered Leaders like this. Yet, I can name at least 20 if not more amazing Leaders that I learned so much from and played a role in making me the Leader I am today. I had several dozen outstanding mentors and Leaders in my military career path, a thing that I did not get much of in my civilian career. So as another great Leader departs this world, I ask, where have all the great Leaders gone? I hope that I have, in my civilian career been able to provide to others the same valuable mentorship that I gained in my time in the Military. If you are a former Military Member and are now in Leadership in the Civilian sector, I deplore you to remember your roots. Remember all those great Military Leaders who shaped who you are today, and "pass it on" to someone in your civilian career path. Remember that they may have never or will never, have a GREAT LEADER in their path again. They could learn from you and in turn, help mentor and shape another Great Leader. Don't forget that Military Leadership mantra "Follow Me". It doesn't have to stop now that you are working in the civilian world. They need to learn those Values, that Creed, those Oaths of Service. Teach them and Lead them. This world is losing Great Leaders, like CSM Meeks every day. I hope that you create one (or many) to take up the mantle the day you have to depart.
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