My Greatest Professional Gift

The celebrations have already begun. I heard them on my back patio last night as firework displays explode in the towns nearby. Independence Day, one of the best celebrations of the year. When we bring together our friends and families to celebrate our independence as a nation.

Along with the festive celebration, for me it’s also a day for thoughtful reflection and appreciation for those who have made this possible.

This appreciation was never more apparent for me than post 9/11 when three members of my Takeda team were called to serve our country in the War on Terror. Taken from their families and friends, I had a chance to speak to each before they were deployed and I remain today in awe of the sense of commitment each portrayed.

No complaining, no “Woe is me” or “I can’t believe this is happening to me” comments. But rather a professional calm that I envied. It’s what they had signed up to do – protect our country – and that was exactly what they were going to do.

We tried our best to support them and their families during their deployment – keeping their territories open and covering them with business interns, their Takeda district peers calling to check on their families at home, and the company rallying to send care packages – to our boys – our guys who were protecting our liberty and our way of life.

And then they all came home.

My first encounter was in a new training class. Clarke was relatively new when he was deployed and hadn’t had a chance to fully integrate his product knowledge and engagement skills in the field so he came thru training again. I made it a habit of speaking to our new classes during the first phase of home office training and as I made my away around the room, there was Clarke. No one told me he was in the class, but there he was, that awesome smile just beaming. Words can’t express the emotions I experienced seeing his face and I am still emotional as I write about it some 12 years or so later.

And then Greg aka “Big Ass” and Jason aka “Guido” who flew helicopters together in Iraq met with me and presented me a flag that had flown on one of their helicopters on September 11, 2015 over the Al Anbar Province of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Again, there are no words that can describe my feelings then and now, and that incredible gift is by far and will always be, the greatest professional gift I have ever received.

Including the War of Independence, it is estimated that 666,809 servicemen and women have lost their lives fighting to protect our independence, our liberty, and our way of life. Regardless, of our personal beliefs about the wars or why we were there, these men and women – all of them a son, daughter, sister, brother, father or mother – gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country and each of us.

I believe the United States is a great country and we can certainly get better. We have come a long way in the way we treat our fellow man but we also have a long way to go. Thankfully, because of the liberty and independence we enjoy, open dialogue is allowed and we are able to voice our differences and our shared beliefs. And by so doing, together shape our future. It’s the brave men and woman of our armed forces – 1.3 million active and 811 thousand reservists – who to a great extent allow these liberties to exist.

The beer will be flowing and the grill will be in full smoking mode at the Hart house on Tuesday as we celebrate Independence Day. As you celebrate with your family and friends, I ask that you join me in a few moments of reflection, and tip one back to those who have given their lives, and those who are prepared to do so, so that we can enjoy this day in celebrating our independence and the liberties we enjoy.

Wishing you all a safe and enjoyable Independence Day!

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