Every four hours two huge male nurses come in and gently roll you on your side. The bullet exited through your left buttock and made a hole the size of a softball. The bandages need to be changed. Take the soiled wads out and put clean ones in. A second lieutenant comes in. She seems to be there all the time. She’s the one changing the bandages. And it hurts like hell, but she, too, is smiling, and talking to you, and she’s gentle.
And you know you’ve seen her before, but you can’t talk – you still have that tube in your throat. But she knows. And she tells you, that you taught her Military Art History, now it’s her turn to take care of you, that she’s in charge of you and the team of nurses assigned to you, and she won’t let you down. And you learn about compassion.
Then it’s months later and you’re still recovering. Most of the tubes are gone, but it’s time for another round of major surgeries. And you go into one of the last, this one about 9 hours long. And they put you back together. You wake up in the ICU one more time. Only one IV this time.
When you open your eyes, there’s a huge figure standing over your bed. BDUs. Green Beret in his hand. Bigger than God. And he’s smiling.
“It’s about damn time you woke up you lazy bastard” he says.
You know it’s your friend and former commander and you’ve got to come back with something quick – something good. He’s the deputy Delta Force commander, soon to be the commander. And you say
“Don’t you have someplace else to be? Don’t you have something more important to do?”
And without skipping a beat, without losing that smile he says
“Right now, I am doing what I consider the most important thing in the world.”
And you learn about leadership.
(Excerpted from a speech that LTC Guy Lofaro (former USMA Military History professor) gave at a company dining-in during 2001. LTC Lofaro also taught at West Point during the mid-1990s.)