In the brutal winter of 1944, Private Sam Scheinberg and the 103rd Infantry Division traversed the Vosges Mountains in France.
Sam, my grandfather, was clearing mines when a German artillery round exploded in front of him. Shrapnel pierced his jacket but was stopped by the heavy-duty eyeglass case he was wearing in his breast pocket. The case saved his life, allowing him to fight on into Germany, liberate concentration camps, and return home safely. After leaving the military, he continued to serve our county as a USDA researcher, Boy Scout mentor, and community leader. My grandfather inspired his children to serve as public educators, and he became a role model of service for my brother and I.
Sixty years later, after graduating from the West Point, I followed in his footsteps, deploying to Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division as a Platoon Leader. I led 20 soldiers into one of the more dangerous regions of Iraq and brought all of them back home alive. I kept my grandfather’s glasses case in my pocket every day.
In as much as it comforted me, I know it wasn’t the eyeglass case that kept me safe. In the face of constant IED attacks, raids, and small arms fights, what protected us was our compassion for the Iraqi people, our ability to work together, and our deep commitment to our mission.
Like my grandfather, I came home from war with the desire to continue to serve as a leader. In 2012, I joined a small but growing veterans nonprofit, The Mission Continues. As an executive, I helped lead the organization’s growth. Today The Mission Continues is one of the premier veteran’s organizations of our generation. In my role, I was able to help thousands of veterans renew their sense of purpose and reintegrate back into their communities by leading them in service projects. I got the chance to bring communities together all over the country and see firsthand what we can accomplish when we come together for a common purpose. When we let go of divisive tribalism, when we work together, bleed together, sweat together…we make our country better. We get things done.