A Salute to the Heroes

Last week, our firm’s President, Len Moisan, had the pleasure of traveling to Lynchburg, Virginia to celebrate his father-in-law’s 100th birthday. While making it to this milestone is quite an achievement in itself, George Rogers is not your typical centenarian.

An American Hero

Mr. Rogers is a great American patriot, a decorated war hero and a survivor of the Bataan Death March. The March came after the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. The Japanese landed the next day near Luzon in the Philippines. In January the allied troops retreated to Manila and then to Bataan under heavy fire. On April 9, 1942, after fierce fighting, General Edward King finally surrendered.

Bataan Death March

The surviving forces, numbering about 76,000 Americans and Filipinos, were forced to march over 100 kilometers in what became known as the Bataan Death March. The trip lasted several days in scorching heat, with no planned food or water stops. Since the troops had been on limited rations, they were already weak and tired. Men carried sick friends but as they fell, they’d be shot, stabbed by bayonets or run over by tanks. By the end of the march, 10,000 men had died. Immediately, survivors were loaded into steel boxcars and shipped to Camp O’Donnell with temperatures inside reaching 120 degrees.

George and the other prisoners were eventually shipped to Japan and forced into hard labor in a steel mill. During 3 1/2 years in prison camp, George was on a starvation diet that left his 6’3″ frame weighing only 85 pounds. In addition to the hard work, he endured beatings, humiliation, Malaria, Dry Beriberi, dysentery, burying 1,600 Americans and much more at the hands of his captors.

Never Losing Hope

Despite these circumstances; he wasn’t defeated and he never lost hope. That’s what true leaders do. George survived in captivity, because of two things. First, he had faith and believed in God. Second, those beliefs helped George create a vision, which transcended his present circumstances and encouraged him to plan for the future. Thinking about Mr. Roger’s selfless service to our country and the sacrifices he and his fellow soldiers made got me thinking about other heroes who’s efforts often go unnoticed.

Heroes in our Schools

This June, my daughter will graduate high school. As I think about her journey through her educational experience, I am reminded of the many teachers, staff, and administrators who helped guide her to this point. I think about teachers, like Mrs. Higdon, who helped develop in Erica a love for math. She encouraged her to challenge herself by taking hard classes and taught her to not fear difficult content. Then, there was Dr. Bentley, her AP Physics teacher. When I questioned her readiness to take such a difficult class, he voiced his confidence in her ability to handle the subject matter. He helped Erica uncover an untapped gift in science that is driving her to study medicine as she moves into her college coursework.

There were other heroes along the way. Teachers who came in early or stayed late to help students so they could better understand difficult content, make up tests, or just provide a listening ear. There was Mr. Ross, her middle school principal who made every child in the school feel welcome. He made it a point to personally greet the students and he seemed to keep an extra eye out for those who didn’t fit in quite as easily. He found ways to make everyone feel included.

Heroes in our Community

In addition to educational heroes, I think about others in our community who give generously and unselfishly to promote the common good. I think of non-profit leaders who feed the hungry, house the homeless, provide a safe place for the abused, or a home away from home for parents of seriously ill children. I think of those who build parks, provide educational scholarships and help the developmentally disabled live lives of independence and there are so many others.

To the heroes who go to war or serve selflessly in the military, to the teachers who encourage students to dream, achieve and reach for their goals, to those who offer help to the hurting or invest in ways that make our community strong…I salute your leadership. Please know that your efforts have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Keep doing what you do to serve, inspire and lead. We are all better off because of these heroes.