Rock & Roll Legacy
As we age and move through the seasons of growth in our lives, the thoughts of how and what we will be remembered for occupies more and more of our time. What do you want your family and others to recall about you years after you pass as they sit around the table thinking and talking about you? And what legacy will you leave?
For example, I spoke with a former senior Army leader shortly after he had retired who was in the process of setting up college investment accounts for each of his 11 grandchildren (at the time) with the intent to fund each of their college educations in the future. I walked away thinking what a noble idea that was, one that would be remembered and have a significant, lasting impact on his family for generations to come.
That discussion led me to start thinking about other examples and how I think of others and myself. How do actions influence perceptions and what will be remembered? What can I do now and in the future to be remembered as someone that made a difference? The following story relates another example, a powerful lesson that people do change and are not always what you think they are.
While assigned to the Army Staff, my spouse, Robin, volunteered to assist the USO escorting celebrities on various visits to Walter Reed and Bethesda. On one occasion, she was escorting a quite famous entertainer who was on her first visit doing so. This was during a period of the Iraq war when casualties were high and we had dozens of severely wounded filling the hospital wards.
Despite the warnings that what she would see would be unsettling and difficult, until she walked into the first room, she could not really conceptualize how bad it would be. Entering the first room, the intense shock of seeing bloodied, damaged, and bandaged Soldiers with tubes, needles, bags we are so familiar with was overwhelming. She connected the best way she could with the injured and their families without breaking down until she moved back into the hallway to cry and then recompose herself before entering the next room.
She continued her visit well past the time allotted and it had such a tremendous personal impact on her that she wrote 10 pages in her daily journal and shared the experience with her mother, who she spoke with every day, for 3 hours. As well, the next night she stopped her concert before 25,000 people and described in tears the impact it made on her; transforming her from a carefree, never married, cavalier person with few responsibilities into a mother, aunt, sister, and friend to those who needed her. She truly was transformed and determined to make a difference.
She then began visiting on a frequent basis, passing out MP3s loaded with music and connecting with our wounded and their families in a tremendously noble way, clearly moving into a season of significance. I tell this story when we talk about legacy and a LTC I was coaching told me he knew immediately who I was talking about because he was his unit’s LNO to Bethesda and saw her late one night running the hallways. Incredulous, he asked the staff about her who told him that she was essentially a member of the staff and was allowed to come and go when she pleased without escort. She never wanted any notice or attention for her actions; she truly was one of us, serving in her own way.
I still get choked up telling this story, a story that demonstrates that perceptions of people may be inaccurate or ill-informed and that people will surprise you. I’ll never forget what Stevie Nicks did (and still does as far as I know) – she certainly earned the highest degree of respect and honor from those she touched and when I think about her legacy and what I would put on her tombstone, it would be: SHE CARED. I only hope others will think the same of me.
True Growth Takeaway: There is nothing more rewarding than being a part of something greater than self.
True Growth Journal Question: If you died today, how would your sentence of life end?? With a period (.), question mark (?), or exclamation point (!)???
About the author: After soldiering for 32 years as an Armor officer in the US Army, Bill Weber retired in 2008 as a Brigadier General. Since retiring, Bill has worked in a variety of executive level positions in the corporate sector. He has extensive experience in leadership, training, organizational management, budget management, and operations. A 1975 graduate of Texas A&M University, he has a Master’s Degree in National Security Affairs (Middle East Studies) from the Naval Postgraduate School.