16 Oct Gold Star Dad

I spent an hour with Jeff Falkel last week, and walked away feeling like I’d know him my entire life – like a brother.  Jeff is a charismatic guy, and well informed on a number of topics.  He’s highly educated with a PhD in exercise physiology, a published author, and gives selflessly to a number of charities.  What’s most striking is that we both know we wouldn’t have met had his son not been killed in Afghanistan in 2005.  Jeff and I both donate proceeds from our work to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and the Green Beret Foundation.  The executive director at the Green Beret Foundation connected us, and because my son will be entering active duty in May 2012, we found that we have a great deal in common.

There are plenty of sad stories in the news, but the ones that are most heart wrenching are the ones that involve a parent dealing with the death of a child.  Most of what we discussed was personal and private, but Jeff did say that becoming a Gold Star dad changed the direction of his life.  Rather than be consumed with grief, Jeff is making a difference in the lives of others.  He’s active in a number of charities, and gives selflessly to others.  He’s been a caregiver his entire career, and I suppose it comes naturally to him.  I particularly appreciate the time he took to speak directly with my son and share his perspective – a point of view sharpened by his tremendous insight into special operations, and our current war efforts.

Jeff has no formal position, authority, and is certainly not paid to help others.  If a true leader is someone that exerts influence to make a difference in the lives of others, Jeff is the genuine deal.  Jeff is the epitome of a leader.  If you would like to see what self-reliant leadership is all about, pick up Jeff’s book (and support some great foundations).

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