09 Feb Mentors to Many
I have written often about the mentor I have had since I was 17 years old, George Callahan. Before I went into the army, George invited me into his home where he told war stories and showed me military memorabilia and old photographs. George was positive, optimistic, immensely inspiring, and completely encouraging. I saw George again recently, and we presented a pen to him with the phrase, “Mentor to Many.”
George is a decorated combat veteran of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and was a former Army Special Forces soldier. He went through paratrooper and Special Forces training at the unprecedented age of 40. He was the complete opposite of what you would expect a Special Forces soldier to look like: small in stature, soft-spoken, kind, polite. He also had a delightful crooked smile that was only enhanced by penetrating blue eyes.
His simple rule is to work hard at work, and work on your marriage everyday. George didn’t worry about transitions over the past 92 years. Fighting in WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam, taught George to embrace everyday as a gift, and he knew there was only one thing he could control: His outlook. George has embodied the Golden Rule, and his energy is like a people magnet. He always has a kind word for everyone, a quick smile, and that’s what he received back from those he’s met over his long life. George reminded me not to be in a hurry for the future, because it will come soon enough.
One day before I left for boot camp, I eagerly asked my mentor George for advice that would help me in my training. He said he had only two bits of advice: “Take the bad times day by day. If it’s really bad, take it hour by hour. If it’s really, really bad, take it moment by moment.” That advice was put to use almost immediately, but the other tip took a few years under my belt to understand and appreciate: “Choose your friends carefully. You need to work with everyone and get along, but not everyone has to be your friend.”
When I earned the Army’s green beret, George gave me one of his cherished old berets, which was a monumental honor. He also had one more piece of advice: “As hard as the past eighteen months of training have been, that is not the hardest thing you will face.” I thought he was talking about the physical toll, but I have since learned that his comment had a much broader context. George Callahan has helped me my whole life understand the true meaning of determination and perseverance.
My son has also been able to benefit from George’s mentoring, and he attended my son’s graduation from West Point. He was the first person to render a salute to my son when he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.
Here’s where it gets interesting…
When I published my book in 2011, I decided to donate half my profits to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and the Green Beret Foundation. The wonderful executive director at the Green Beret Foundation, Jennifer Paquette, suggested I meet a local author and Gold Star dad who donates to the same causes.
I met Jeff Falkel over breakfast, and for the first time in my life, gained a brother for life. Jeff’s company is called Junior’s Bullet Pens. It is dedicated to his warrior, his hero, his son – Staff Sergeant Chris Falkel, who was a member of 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) when he was killed in action in Afghanistan on August 8, 2005 saving the lives of his Special Forces team, and 16 members of the Afghan National Army. He was awarded the Silver Star for his valor and professionalism.
Chris was called “Junior” by his teammates because he was the youngest member of his team, and in memory of his son, Jeff named his company Junior’s Bullet Pen Company. Jeff donates over 30% of the proceeds of the sale of every pen to various foundations that support Special Operations soldiers and their families. To date, he has made 170,000 pens, and has donated $400,000 in cash and pen products to these foundations since 2007.
Not only did I gain a brother, my son gained another wonderful mentor as well. In fact, Jeff was one of the guest speakers at my son’s graduation from Ranger School in 2013.
When I told Jeff I was going to visit George, and wanted to present George with a special pen, Jeff jumped into action and rushed to get the pen to George in time for our visit. It was a very special presentation, without a dry eye in the room.
These two gentlemen come from different generations, but they exemplify what it means to sacrifice, to give, and to say thanks. Both these gentleman remind us of the power within us, and that the acquisition of virtues to live a flourishing life takes persistence, determination and practice.
Thank you George and Jeff, for being Mentors to Many.