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An Open Letter to Veterans on Veterans Day

I want to take a moment and write to the women and men who make up the 18.2 million veterans in the United States of America. Today is Veterans Day, set aside to honor those who have worn the uniforms of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps while serving our country at home and around the world.

I’ve been blessed to speak with and for our military on different occasions, and while I’m grateful for each person who actively serves, I am especially grateful for those whose service is behind them. To honor our veterans, I want to share just a couple of thoughts around the idea of values.

Our veterans have contributed much value to my life and yours, and it’s only right that we stop today and acknowledge our appreciation for them because they willingly gave of themselves for a bigger cause.

The Value of Values

For the last few years, my team and I have worked in Guatemala, Paraguay, and Costa Rica towards the goal of transformation. We’ve led roundtables, held events, and worked closely with the citizens of those countries to help influence lasting, positive change that will impact future generations.

At the root of everything we’re doing is values—good values, held deeply in the hearts of individuals—are what transform communities and countries.

Values matter, and the values of the US military branches reflect that truth. Each of the services have a set of core values that help identify and shape the character of its people.

I want to write just a bit about the core values of the Army because they are powerful and instructive to those of us who’ve never served. While each military branch has their own core values, over 36 percent of our veterans served in the Army and the core values of the other branches are found within these seven:

  • Loyalty—the Army defines loyalty as “believing in and devoting yourself to something or someone.” Simply put, it is a commitment to love, care, and support your people. And leaders should always demonstrate loyalty first before asking for it from their people.
  • Duty—this means “fulfilling your obligations,” and it’s a picture of each member of a team doing his or her part with excellence to ensure the success of everyone.
  • Respect—I love how the Army defines this: “appreciate the best in other people.” It’s putting a “10” on everyone’s head and trusting that they will live up to that belief.
  • Selfless Service—adding value to others by putting their needs ahead of your own. It’s the willingness to exceed expectations so others will benefit.
  • Honor—living according to your values. We live with honor when our walk matches our talk.
  • Integrity—this is living authentically by being a person who doesn’t deceive or intentionally mislead others. Integrity as a leader is the foundation upon which trust is built.
  • Personal Courage—courage is the willingness to act in the face of fear. We build our courage when we stand up for what we believe is right and good.

And did you notice that these values can be summed up by the acrostic LDRSHIP (leadership)?

I love that!

The Value of Veterans

There’s so much good teaching that could come out of those seven values, but I want to shift gears a bit and speak directly to veterans.

Much is made of your service, and rightfully so. We see celebrations and acknowledgments of your valuable work everywhere from stadiums to the halls of Congress, and yet it is not easy for many of you to return to life post-service. There are challenges that you face, from serious issues like homelessness and mental health, to the everyday challenges of returning to life outside of the close-knit community of your unit.

After months and years as a soldier, sailor, or airman, transitioning to the role of civilian may be one of the hardest assignments you ever have. As you look to find your new way forward, I want to say something that I hope will be encouraging.

While I don’t know your reasons for joining the military, I do know that your time in uniform instilled in you the capacity for leadership, growth, and purpose. You know what it means to live a life adds value to others, and you know how to get things done with excellence. The values that defined your time in the service are transferrable to your life beyond the service, and we need those values in the public sphere.

I’ve written often about the leadership deficit we face in our country, and men and women of your character and caliber can and should find a home among those of us who want to see good values make a comeback.

There is a difference between purpose and calling: purpose is your why, the reason for your life, and it’s expressed through your calling, the work of your life.

Your purpose didn’t end the day your military career did—it continues, and finds expression in a new calling, whatever that may be.

So I want to encourage you to find a new community to join, to find new partnerships that will allow you to engage and grow your leadership skills in the civilian world. Start a new business, volunteer, be part of something that you personally find enriching, and make your days continue to count for significance.

We need you as much today as we did when you wore the uniform. Maybe we need you more.

One thing is certain, however—today, we honor and celebrate you. We give you our gratitude for all you’ve done, and we look forward to all you’ll do next.

Happy Veterans Day. May God bless you.

31 Comments

  1. […] An Open Letter to Veterans on Veterans Day […]

    • Barry Demp on November 11, 2019 at 9:28 am

      Your letter touched my heart.

      I hope your message carries far and wide and find a place in many heart ans souls today and everyday.

    • Craig Ruhl on November 11, 2019 at 10:17 am

      Thank you, Sir. I was my honor to serve the United States of America.

    • Victoria on November 11, 2019 at 4:58 pm

      Beautifully written. 🇺🇸

    • Ramon Castillo on November 11, 2019 at 6:09 pm

      Thank you, sir. It was an honor to serve. As a retired Navy Chief, I often wonder why we struggle so much today with solutions to very fundamental issues. I believe it is because those values from generations past simply have not been captured and transferred to the current generations. Our responsibility as veterans, especially now, when there are five generations in the workforce is to impart those values, along with the imperative to communicate them in our daily priorities and actions, in order to establish and perpetuate the culture that will be needed in the years to come.

      I sincerely appreciate your work and what you do every day. Thank you.

    • Evan Barnard on November 11, 2019 at 9:40 pm

      It is truly a blessing to have had the honor of serving this nation and protecting our freedom as a Marine infantry officer AND serving in the leadership transformation efforts in South America with the John Maxwell Team & Leadership Foundation. You are an exceptional leader and would have made a great Marine.
      Thanks for the great reminder. Semper Fi!

  2. Michael on November 11, 2019 at 7:29 am

    Great words. As a vet and someone who is still serving your words on leadership help me to be a better leader. Thank you again for the kind words on this Veterans Day and for those quick few nuggets of knowledge

    • Guy Smith on November 11, 2019 at 8:45 am

      Thank you John. As a retired US Navy Chief, a deckplate, leader your words, in the open letter of thanks, and your writings have inspired me to be a better leader in all that I do.
      Keep up your good work!!

      Guy Smith

    • Ahmed Mohamed qurani on November 11, 2019 at 3:32 pm

      Thanks my soul , your writings have inspired me to be a better leader in all that I do. You will always be my ‘Coach’. Enjoy our Veterans day.

  3. Beverly on November 11, 2019 at 8:18 am

    As a Vet and JMT member, I want to thank you for the beautiful way you captured the essence of what it means to serve. John, thank you too for being the best servant leader we know!

  4. Carrie Goodman on November 11, 2019 at 8:32 am

    That was a very awesome statement and from the Heart ❤ God Bless America 🇺🇸🇺🇸

  5. Michael Van Voorhis on November 11, 2019 at 8:52 am

    I needed to hear this. Your words are always well thought through. I now find myself to be one of the older Veterans at my employer and I need to ‘step up’ to ensure younger Veterans are acknowledged and thanked. -You will always be my ‘Coach’.

  6. Dan Williams on November 11, 2019 at 8:58 am

    My two brothers served. Thank you for your service. My past family also served too. Thank each one of you for your life and fives that you served and died for . Thank you

  7. Jerry and Mickey Frigaard on November 11, 2019 at 9:08 am

    My wife and I both served in the Navy. That is where we met and fell in love. So the Navy gave us a meeting place 🙂 my only delight and beauty to behold in the chow hall, it also gave us purpose, training and a lot of responsibility to grow into. I left the Navy as a Chief and have been a leader ever since. Thank you John for your letter.

    • Abraham on November 11, 2019 at 12:02 pm

      Very nice to see how life, LIFE, is lived every day. Not all about work, job, title, but what your LIFE was as a member of the armed forces family also. Mine was similar which is why I responded. The Lord is Good to us. Thank you!!!

  8. Hermann BLEDOU on November 11, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Thanks a lot John, May God bless all the veterans.

  9. Frank on November 11, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Thank you John, Kind words that represent the men and women of this great country. Proud to have served with so many of them. Enjoy our Veterans day.

  10. Laura Sapp on November 11, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Thank you for your kind words.

  11. Henry R Landry on November 11, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Thank you John. Your words honor me and I appreciate it very much! May God continue to bless all of our Veterans and active duty personnel!

  12. Kelli on November 11, 2019 at 10:30 am

    As a Veteran of two branches, I always find that the Army Values should be used by everyone and everyday. We must learn to be honest and respect ourselves as well as others even in these crazy times.
    I am proud to have served and I always will be there for all of my brothers and sisters in arms. IGY6!!

  13. Allen Unruh on November 11, 2019 at 10:40 am

    God bless America and our veterans. JON STEWART Mills said: “ There’s only one thing worse than war and that’s the philosophy that nothing’s worth fighting for.” Liberty should be the most highly rated celestial article of all Americans. We thank our veterans who are willing to sacrifice their lives for this noble cause. Greater love hath no man.

  14. Mebukura Gabriel on November 11, 2019 at 10:40 am

    Hi sir , I’m Mebukura Gabriel by name,
    I was so excited to be in These platform
    It’s a very good Remembrance from our great leader John Maxwell to the Great nation . Sir you have done great work more Grace sir to do more all over the world.

  15. Tina Newsome-Lee on November 11, 2019 at 10:41 am

    You always know the right words to say at the right time John Maxwell. What a great tribute to our Veterans and a great reminder to all of us of what it means to lead. I’m inspired by the courage of men and women who proudly wear our uniforms. May God continue to richly bless you all!

  16. Sunil Harrypersad on November 11, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    My mentor, my leader, my papa and my friend! Thank you fir always reminding us the importance of leadership.

  17. Robert on November 11, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    That is funny, thank you for sharing!! And thank you for Serving!!

  18. Jimmy Ex-Navy on November 11, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    Thank you John, that was powerful!!
    I was in the Navy for 12 years during Vietnam. On our (2) nine month cruises, along with my Technical Aircraft Maintenance role, the commanding officer made me the Career Counselor and Drug Abuse Counselor also. I helped sailors and their families work through issues that occurred as a result of the long family separations and other issues guys were having with being cooped up and lonely, as they tried to fix it with drugs and alcohol.
    In the work world since my Navy days, I have been a Technician, Engineer, Manager and Director in Manufacturing and Customer Service. Solving Technical issues, Customer issues, Employee issues and to meet and exceed our Divisional Goals. And Read at least 30 of your books John!!
    All of this and the Lord, made me the Leader I am today.

  19. This is why I’d go to the ends of the earth and walk the road of uncertainty with Dr. John C. Maxwell. He is such a leader with heart, vision, and faith. Thanks so much for these words of encouragement. You always have a word in due season. I’m proud to wear the John Maxwell Team name and legacy.

  20. Donna Godbersen on November 11, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    Thank you for your kind words, I wish my husband was alive to read them, they would have helped him adjust to civilian life afterwards. He was drafted in February, 1951, served in the Army combat engineers in Korea from July, 1951 – August, 1052, in November, 1952, he was released to inactive reserves until 1957. He was proud to be a veteran. Enjoy your training sessions always

  21. Gangadharan. S on November 12, 2019 at 2:14 am

    Thank you for kind words which inspired me much.

  22. Ogaba A. Nelson on November 12, 2019 at 3:09 am

    Truly Veterans needs to celebrated.
    Thank you sir for this wonderful piece.
    WHY WE SLEEP THERE ARE AWAKE
    WHY WE WAKE THERE ARE STILL AWAKE
    THEY GAVE OUT THEIR COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE FOR A BIGGER CAUSE, truly veterans are those kind of people Rev.Martin Luther King Jr. referred too ”if a man hasn’t find a cause he can die for he is not feet to live” veterans are our heros

  23. Stephen Paul Gazama on November 12, 2019 at 5:33 am

    Thanks a lot, Mentor John. May God Almighty bless all the veterans.

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