Once a week, for 52 weeks this year, OpsLens will post a card highlighting one of the 52 Most Wanted Post 9/11 Frontline Leaders. Let the year of celebrating heroes begin…
Like you, I recently spent some time reflecting on the past year before I tackle the next and establish new goals. Yet during this exercise I couldn’t stop thinking about the exceptional people I met in 2017. You see, much of this past year I traveled across the country for my book tour and national speaking engagements with Bunker Labs, a nonprofit that enables veteran entrepreneurs.
I often used the time to advocate for the post 9/11 service member, because it’s important to move the narrative beyond the prevailing themes that we are either heroes or broken. During these events and engagements, I was moved by the magnitude of impact our generation is already beginning to have in our communities, culture, and economy. I received my own dose of inspiration through a live feed of interactions with those I met along the way, which reaffirmed my message that through service, one acquires attributes that offer an unmatched currency that are a force multiplier here at home too.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also fielded some less than optimistic questions, from being asked if women should really be in combat, to musings about our efforts to fight the Global War on Terror as even being worth it. Taking Mosul twice is a palpable frustration amongst almost every OIF veteran I know. It was during one of those conversations with my post 9/11 comrades, about how less than 1 percent of Americans have been fighting the longest war in our history, in which I was reminded of an upcoming milestone. One of the members in the group said, “Can you believe it’s going to be 15 years?”
March of 2018 will be the fifteenth anniversary of the Iraq War (known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, or OIF). US troops and the Coalition of the Willing took a preemptive move to liberate a country that was considered to harbor terrorists and unearth its weapons of mass destruction. In fact, an overwhelming majority of 77% of the Senate authorized the resolution—albeit only one senator out of the entire Congress had a child serving in the military. March 2003 was before Iraq was dubbed the “bad war,” before Private First Class Jessica Lynch was a household name, and a sole-source quagmire. It was also before the terrible ingenuity of roadside bombs, a Sunni Awakening, and Operation New Dawn. Now think about this—those were also the days before the world had Facebook, the iPhone, and America’s first African American president.
Fifteen years ago, was when I was in Mesopotamia as a young enlisted soldier, one of my tasks was to print, cut, and help disseminate the Deck of 52 Most Wanted playing cards. I mentioned this to the group and several members said they still had their “collector item” deck, which went viral back home when nightly news programs used them. (Not to mention the opportunists who capitalized on the deck, mass produced, and sold them on eBay.)
What was lost in the flurry for the original deck, though, was their simple mission—to inform troops using a tool they probably would use in their down time. The military has used cards for this purpose since the Civil War, including the sought-after World War II deck by the Army Air Corps with the silhouettes of German and Japanese fighter and bomber aircraft on them. Remember, smart phones did not exist in 2003, and neither did Rumsfeld’s iOS game Churchill Solitaire. And that got me thinking.
One of my broader aspirations in writing The Frontline Generation was to inform the 99 percent—to introduce and inspire them with a deeper narrative about post 9/11 service members. Why not use cards as a sequel to the book and continue the conversation, because capturing the top 52 Most Wanted Frontline Leaders by highlighting their businesses and charities offers further evidence for those unmatched attributes you read about in the book.
Resilience. Resourcefulness. Innovation. Making pain our purpose. Building coalitions. Earning our grit. At home or overseas, post 9/11 frontline leaders have stood up, taken action, from warfighters to first responders, from military spouses to family members. They have made, and make, a difference. They are the Frontline Generation and will inspire you to live with purpose, live for each other, and lead.
In 2018, as a spin-off and salute to the original deck, let’s honor post 9/11 frontline leaders here at home. Once a week, for 52 weeks this year, OpsLens will post a card highlighting one of the 52 Most Wanted Post 9/11 Frontline Leaders. You’ll learn the top facts about their business or organization, as well as why they made the list, which comes down to their impact, scalability, health, and unique value proposition. I encourage you to look for these weekly updates, share the card with your network, and support or buy the products and services they offer. This will be a New Year’s Resolution worth keeping.