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A Value Lost

Bob Hall

March 2015

"If put to the pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness." - Elbert Hubbard

After retiring from the Army, I did what I thought was best for me and my family and spent some time chasing dollars before quickly realizing this wasn't what I wanted to do or what I wanted to be. First of all, it took me away from the greatest Americans God put on this earth . . . our Soldiers. I also found that others would willingly ask me to do something that, in my mind, put my integrity in question. Something I always refused to do which caused not a small measure of annoyance to those wanting something I wanted no part of.

Luckily, as I decided on another "life" or career change, I was asked to represent a Fortune 200 company. One that was sincere in their desire to take care of those who served our country in uniform as well as those who had served and their families. I was, once again, around those I loved and respected and was never asked to do anything that put my integrity in question. I felt I was still serving . . . just in a different uniform. But all things change and ten years later I found that I wanted to be a better husband, father, grandfather to slow down and to spend more time with my family so I decided to retire the second time. And did. Then one day shopping at Home Depot, the phone rang and I had the opportunity to join a group that allowed me the opportunity to continue to serve. I have now been associated with the True Growth Team for a year and over the Christmas holidays I found myself in a position we would all understand as being on profile.

This gave me time to think and reflect on life and purpose and the Army and personal values. No one has to explain to me or those of you who have served in the military, the meaning of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. Those values are part of our basic character. While those values are certainly aligned with my personal values, they didn't exactly encompass them perfectly. I, as have you, did the session to identify my personal values and after going through the slide deck . . . I came up with Humility, Moral Courage, Family, Integrity, and Focus on Others.

While at home resting after minor surgery, I thought through those values to decide if they still describe Bob Hall. They do, but maybe they don't do so exactly and that doesn't surprise me. I said during my retirement speech that "I have truly enjoyed my time in the Army and I have no regrets. Certainly there are things I would do differently if I had a chance. And, there are things that I would like to change if I could. But at the end of the day, I can look back at my life and honestly say that I am proud to serve our country as a Soldier." I still feel that way.

Then I think back to my life story, the crucibles that caused me to reflect and eventually to arrive at my purpose statement. During this time of reflection, I heard Chris Carter, NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver say, "we live in a world of our own experiences."

Certainly that's true so maybe if I could, I would add the one additional value of "Loyalty" because I lived the loss of that at one point in my life and career.

When I moved into the position as Sergeant Major of the Army, I had a small staff to support me and had decided that I wouldn't change any of the Soldiers now working for me. Each of these Soldiers was experienced, knowledgeable and professional. But, as you can imagine, the key ones received pretty decent job offers because of the access and proximity they enjoyed. When one of my key Non Commissioned Officers told me of a job offer and that while it was attractive, he wanted to stay with me. We talked and he convinced me that was truly his desires. A week later after a trip, I was in the office on a weekend and before I left to head home, I just happened to check to see what had come in on the fax machine.

I read the response to a letter the aforementioned senior Non Commissioned Officer had received for a job offer in which he said that he accepted and could be retired and ready to start two weeks or earlier if they needed him.

I waited and we talked on Tuesday and he tried to explain to me the job wasn't what he had hoped for and the money was for less than he had expected and that he wanted to stay. I explained that wasn't an option. That he could retire and take the offer he initially accepted or he could call Personnel Command (now Human Resources Command), and ask for reassignment. It was emotional for both of us, but I knew I could never rely on his loyalty after this transpired. He retired, took the job, regretted it, and doesn't talk to me to this day.

I guess that's OK with me. I felt (and feel) this was of his own doing and he made the decision, not me. He violated the value of Loyalty by any definition you choose to use and certainly the definition of Loyalty as defined in Army values and in Webster's dictionary.

Did I regret losing him? Of course. Maybe. I don't know. He knew the Pentagon, the people and the systems. But that's okay. I did what I thought then and know now I had to do. Loyalty was too important to me and even now, putting pen to paper here at the kitchen table in the only home Carole and I have ever owned after 19 sets of government quarters, that decision causes me to reflect back on a 4 x 6 card I have kept on my desk ever since my first one in the platoon room in Schwabach, Germany. It states:

"If I were to try to read, much less answer all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how . . . the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so to the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference." That quote is one by Abraham Lincoln. If it's good enough for him, it's certainly good enough for me.

True Growth Takeaway: Never be afraid to relook where you are and how and what you are doing.  Sometimes we have to be willing to face our decisions.

True Growth Journaling Questions: Is there a decision you made because of a conflict of values?  What did you do and would you do the same thing if you had a chance to do it again?

About the author: Sergeant Major of the Army Robert E. Hall, US Army Retired, demonstrated his personal commitment to the Army and his Soldiers as he advanced to positions of greater responsibility.  He held a variety of leadership positions culminating in his last three assignments as Command Sergeant Major 1st US Army, US Central Command, and Sergeant Major of the Army.  In 2007, he was presented The Doughboy Award for outstanding contributions to the United States Army Infantry.



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