One night when I was trying (operative word “trying”) to finish up a proposal where nothing was going right; printer out of ink and no spare, internet speed choppy, yelling at my internet service provider again, placing chili powder in the crock pot instead of paprika and noticing the flickering of the lamp’s light slowly going out.
In my state of total self absorption with “insignificance”, my eye caught a news stream, Einar H. Ingman Jr. passes away. Who is Einar, why is that in my news stream? I admit I’m a little OCD about my technology, news streams, staying on top of everything CRM and I am admittedly certifiable. But really, who is Einar and why has he interrupted my finely tuned universe?
The answer soon appears with a search. I was so distracted by “everything” and I obviously needed an excuse to not work on this proposal, which was missing “something” like my undivided attention.
INGMAN, EINAR H., JR, an American, was a Medal of Honor recipient who passed away September 10th, 2015. He had been awarded his medal in 1951 while fighting in Korea. His story of heroism occurred while his:
“platoon was pinned down by withering fire and both of his squad leaders and several men were wounded. Cpl. Ingman assumed command, reorganized and combined the 2 squads, then moved from 1 position to another, designating fields of fire and giving advice and encouragement to the men. Locating an enemy machine gun position that was raking his men with devastating fire he charged it alone, threw a grenade into the position, and killed the remaining crew with rifle fire. Another enemy machine gun opened fire approximately 15 yards away and inflicted additional casualties to the group and stopped the attack. When Cpl. Ingman charged the second position he was hit by grenade fragments and a hail of fire which seriously wounded him about the face and neck and knocked him to the ground. With incredible courage and stamina, he arose instantly and, using only his rifle, killed the entire gun crew before falling unconscious from his wounds. As a result of the singular action by Cpl. Ingman the defense of the enemy was broken, his squad secured its objective, and more than 100 hostile troops abandoned their weapons and fled in disorganized retreat. Cpl. Ingman’s indomitable courage, extraordinary heroism, and superb leadership reflect the highest credit on himself and are in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the infantry and the U.S. Army.” (1)
The adjectives stuck to me like a spider’s web; assume command, giving advice and encouragement, incredible courage and stamina. Then the unwritten words of leadership, unwavering conviction, seeing the next step, navigating a field of death with persistence.
… navigating a field of death with persistence!
As I read this I wondered was Cpl. Ingman fearless or was it instinct to help his brothers? Everything happened in split seconds. Can you even think in a split second? Isn’t it then instinct takes over? But what instinct? Self survival or protecting his platoon. Which was it? Are they different?
I began perusing the stories behind our medal of honor recipients. I spent the night moving from one story to the next. Reading the moment when the Medal of Honor recipients had to make a decision to move, to risk their life. They seemed to have a common thread in their stories, assess the situation, then act!
…assess the situation, then act!
Did this happen in a split second? What was the timing between assessing the problem and then the action to solve it? From their stories I couldn’t quite figure that out. When I did listen to the oral histories (2) you could feel the raw emotion of the situation and the noise around them. It did seem everything happened so fast.
What about fear? I haven’t heard one story that used that word yet. Maybe it’s because the decisions are made so fast you don’t have time feeling fear and the paralysis of thinking too much. And what about Cpl. Ingman? After he took out the first machine gun he had to regroup and go after a second machine gun that opened fire. By then his adrenaline must have been pumping to fuel his next step. No time, not even a split-second to reconsider the consequences or to waste. Wasting time can mean death!
…wasting time can mean death!
As I continued to listen, many shared their stories on how they ended up in the military. Some of the stories were funny. Several were about them getting into trouble and they needed direction with their life. One story was about how he just liked girls and not much of anything else, “I liked the girls better than my education, but I wanted to be the best I could.”
I’m sure there were stories of young boys knowing they wanted to go into the military, but I seemed to keep clicking on the stories of these young boys lost, undisciplined and unsure of their life’s direction. I guess, that might have been what kept me listening. The stories were from humbled young men just starting out in their lives, going it alone, directionless, with no real relationships that gave them the mentorship or guidance to find who they were.
…starting out in their lives, going it alone, directionless.
As each of their stories started to unfold into their life on the battle field, they spoke of the intensity of the horrible conditions that existed in the trenches. They reflected on how each day would bring them to another battle and the emotional bonds building ever deeper with their fellow soldiers. They reflected on the brutality of the trenches, the fog and despair of never-ending marches. The conditions of little sleep, food and water.
With the growth of their relationships and connections, these boys were growing an inner depth of their soul and caring more about their patrol and learning to care for the safety of each other not only as individuals but as a group. Together they are stronger, together their odds to survive successfully grew and together they each became a better person. These relationships forged in the depth of hardship and life-threatening reality gave these young boys a lesson in life, alone I’m strong but together we are invincible. These boys experienced an emotional rebirth built on the growing relationships of interdependence and emotional selflessness.
… alone I’m strong but together we are invincible.
It was inspiring to listen throughout the night how these men as young boys admittedly lost or considered troublemakers shared their transformation. Their stories would paint the scene of the situation right before the Medal of Honor event. It included the comradeship and the desperation of the moment. And then in an instant they faced not only an enemy but themselves, finding their “core” defining who they are at the most critical intersection.
… finding their “core” defining who they are at the most critical intersection.
There’s over 3,495 recipients and tonight I only read a few and listened to more. Each story, unique, but they all had crossroads of similarities in fortitude. They all seemed mute to the reality of the consequences of their heroic actions, persistent in taking the next step and then the next. Ultimately none of them had a plan B to fall back on. They were all facing an all or nothing scenario.
… none of them had a plan B to fall back on.
How often I’ve had a safety net to “just” take the edge off of a failure. Or convince myself I didn’t fail because I had another option. What would I have done if I didn’t have an option, a plan B? What if the only next step is to continue on the same path and not give up on it. I’ve never thought of that till now.
I didn’t finish that proposal. Instead, I called the client and recommended another company I had collaborated with on another project. I was trying to fit into their narrow specification to win the proposal and I just wasn’t the best solution. I realize it was in my client’s best interest to give them their “Plan A”.
All text Copyright © 2015 by Jeanne E. Reynolds – All Rights Reserved
(1) “MedalOfHonor.” CMOHS.org. Congressional Medal of Honor Society, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
(2) “Medal of Honor: Oral Histories.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.