A Veteran Presence

Train Talk15

In honor of Veteran’s Day last week, I proudly note that my dad served in Vietnam. History books and old news footage can’t accurately detail the horror he and all soldiers endured and continue to endure after the fact. Yet, he’s humbly honored to have served.

In sports, the term veteran presence is used for the guy who’s played a while and had success in the particular sport. Further, the term refers to the fact that this older player is making an impact on the younger players on the team. He leads by example, and sometimes words, to teach the less experienced players the way to be a pro. Plenty of tremendous athletes have flamed out in their sport, not because their bodies fail them, but because they couldn’t embrace the protocol to be a professional. They assumed if they just continue to show up to play, their talent will dictate success. Often, they are rudely awakened to the fact that everyone around them is talented. This isn’t college, high school or little league anymore — they aren’t automatically the best player on the field all the time. And, even if they are the most talented early in their career, the talent impact lessens if they don’t learn how to put the work in everyday and how to carry themselves on and off the field of play. These skills sustain a successful career; and without them, the superstar becomes a shooting star that makes a flash, but predictably fades.

My dad has served as a veteran presence in my life, both literally and the figurative way described above. His actions, and sometimes words, clarify how to best handle myself as a man of honor in all the roles I take on: father, husband, professional, community member, and friend.

I’ve also found that applying the fundamental lessons learned from my Dad, and other role models in my life, is the only recipe for success that my wayward soul can unfailingly trust. However, I can have all the great role models in my life I can get, but if I don’t take their words and deeds to heart, I’ll just be a flash in the pan. Fool’s gold.

Flashy fake gold and shooting stars provide many oohs and aahs, for a time. But, I’d hope we’d all strive to have a more lasting, and truly valuable, impact on our circles of influence for a lifetime. Maybe, even after we’re dead and gone, some of us can even leave such a legacy that future young players can recall our veteran presence and measure themselves against our ways.