I took my son Luke to his first Auburn football game last weekend. Although the Penn State Nittany Lions took the Tigers to the proverbial woodshed, it was a great father-son day at one of the nation’s premier college football venues.
As a child of the 80’s I was reminded of Auburn’s great two-sport star Bo Jackson. A man among boys, Bo would continue to excel professionally in football and baseball to such an extent that Nike decided there was nothing Bo could not do.
Nike launched its “Bo Knows” campaign illustrating Jackson dominating all sports professionals of the time. Wildly successful, Bo Knows introduced the masses to cross training, and more importantly to Nike, cross trainer sneakers.
But, just like most made in Hollywood storylines, there was the “rest of the story.” Bo was from the small Alabama town of Bessemer. He did not crave the spotlight, in fact, he avoided it. Bo Jackson, the larger-than-life public figure was more comfortable in a tree stand than in the public eye.
You really just don’t know Bo.
To many of my friends’ surprise, it took more than 18 months after I returned to the Fort Benning area to venture into the 75th Ranger Regiment footprint without my Ranger Buddy CSM Ret. Mike Hall.
Those that know me are aware that I served in the Regiment for nine years, went to combat with the unit a few times, direct GallantFew’s Ranger programs, and established The Ranger Outreach Center at St. Luke Church in uptown Columbus.
Why in the world did it take a year and a half to walk “behind the brown fence” as we call it?
Honestly, I have tried to answer that myself for about…18 months. I think I have a piece of the answer.
Not too many of us in the Special Operations community ever leave the community on our own terms. That is the primary reason that Karl Monger founded the GallantFew in the first place. SOF operators block out so much of the chaos in their personal life to best serve in their “chosen profession”. The result can be a feeling of self-worth tied to their performance, not to their character and development as a person. The result is a reluctance to bother their brothers and sisters in arms after they depart because they no longer bring value to the team.
What broke that cycle of broken thinking for me was one unplanned event.
I received an invitation to attend MSG Josh Jacobs’ retirement earlier this year. For this story, it is important to know that Josh and I are not close. I can’t remember if II got the invite from Josh or his wife.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Josh Jacobs as a man, but we just never served together and have not shared a lot of time in each other’s company. But, a few years ago his beautiful family attended a weekend family-focused retreat with us. For that reason, or maybe another, I decided to go back to Benning and see Josh on his big day.
Once on site, I told a Command Sgt. Maj. Ret. mentor of mine now in a high position within the Regiment’s leadership that it is my first time back. He was not surprised. He said, “It is hard for all of us.”
The sense of belonging is intrinsic to human existence. Babies seek their mothers. Kids long for playmates. The healthiest, happiest, and longest-living communities on this planet are those built on connection, engagement, and appreciation for spiritual development.
I share this experience because you may be the change agent for another by including a long-lost friend over to watch football this weekend. Maybe you are the long-lost friend that this weekend does not come up with a reason not to go over to your friend’s house.
Since I went to Josh’s retirement, I average three trips to the Regiment a week. On-site, I can best serve the Rangers with our retention and transition support. At home, I am happier and more enjoyable to be around because each day at work is more fulfilling.
You may not really know Bo, but there is a lot of good that comes from trying to get to know him.