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Service Leadership

In the world of constant bad news and the incredulous suffering at the hands of bureaucracy I witnessed a moment of hope yesterday. My friend Mike “Waldo” Reynolds (3rd person from the left) invited me to attend a special presentation that he was delivering to Business Executives for National Security organization (BENS). Waldo is no ordinary man. He is a firefighter, a paramedic, a soldier (master sergeant), a husband, a dad and a Wounded Warrior. Waldo suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) while serving the U.S. Army in Iraq. The master sergeants’ vehicle was rammed by truck while responding to help others. (There is a long story here that I will tell later). Today I was there to witness a four star general (former USAF Chief of Staff) stand up and salute the master sergeant.

Waldo was fortunate to be accepted to the Shepherd Spinal Centers SHARE Military Initiative. In the center of pic is James Shepherd (Chairman of the Board) the son of founder, Harold Shepherd of the Shepherd Center, a private not-for-profit hospital. Mr. Shepherd and his wife, Alana, established the center in 1975 after their James was paralyzed in an accident. At the time the closest treatment center was located in Colorado. Harold and Alana Shepherd have worked relentlessly to build the Shepard Center into the world-class medical facility that it is. The SHARE program is dependent on private donations because our veterans insurance only covers about 38 cents of every dollar needed to make the program work. It is the only program of its kind dedicated to helping our veterans who suffer from Traumatic Brain Injuries.

All along Waldo’s journey to recovery were various fire service leaders who provided Waldo the opportunity to belong. From military bases, small towns and big cities Waldo’s fire service brothers kept up his support network despite delays in treatment and diagnosis from the VA. Service leadership is a direct result of servant leaders like Moe Baxter (4th from left) Fire Chief of the Chatsworth FD who through a network of FD friends and co-workers made the calls to the fire chiefs in other cities and on bases to help Waldo. No one told him NO.

There is a lesson here somewhere. A lesson that government isn’t the answer to solving our problems. A lesson that those who entered their profession out of an inner calling to serve others are still out there. A lesson that individual resiliency is often stimulated by the support of a brotherhood. A lesson that great things can happen when people actually care about something or someone. The fire service, through those in this picture, set the example for a nation to follow. The Shepherd family is an example of how business can have a moral purpose. They are the civilian example of service leadership.

…….. Gen Norton Schwartz, USAF ret (former USAF Chief of Staff) made his way to the podium as Waldo finished up his story. His grey hair and sunken eyes revealed a life time of critical decisions yet the tone in his voice instilled a calmness. “Young man, that story has further opened my eyes to the fact that these problems can’t be solved in Washington.” He paused and lifted his right hand in a salute as he faced Waldo. Waldo sprang to his feet so fast that he nearly broke the sound barrier and returned the salute. A four star general saluting a master sergeant is not an everyday occurrence. The general then looked at the table where Waldo’s fire service brothers were sitting and listening intently. He slowly made eye contact with each of us as he paused again. He turned to the room full of business executives and said, “It is amazing what can happen when people give a S**T!” That was the most eloquent description of the brothers in that pic that I have ever heard…… to be continued

At the far left of picture another dedicated servant who says she has learned more about being a person from Waldo than he has ever learned from her. A great American, Jackie Breitenstein, Clinical Program Manager of the SHARE Military Initiative. If you know a veteran suffering from a TBI that needs helps please refer them to the SHARE program at the Shepherd Center. If you would like more information or would like to make a donation to keep this program going please visit


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