In the sidebar, I mention that I am a veteran. I served in Iraq with the US Army Reserve. Today I had the honor of speaking at a local school for their Veterans Day Ceremony. I thought for my post today, I would just tell you what I said to them. The following is, more or less, my speech from this morning. Thank you to everyone who has served and thank you for all of the gratitude I've received from friends and family today.
Thanks for having me here. My name is Dave Lubke. I used to be in the 983rd Engineer Battalion out of Toledo, and I had the honor of being the commander of Charlie Company for Operation Iraqi Freedom III. Ten years ago now, I was getting very anxious to return home to my wife and my 2-year old son. I had just lost my third soldier of the tour; Thanksgiving was coming up and we were hoping to be home for Christmas.
This past weekend, my niece in Chicago called me up because she needed to interview a veteran for a school project. She started off with some of the basics like what branch of service, what rank were you, what job title did you have, and where did you go. One of her questions kind of hit me though. She said, “Do you remember what it was like when you arrived there?” I replied “Absolutely!”. It was a very long flight from Indiana to Kuwait and it was the 27th of December here when we left. We stopped in Germany on the way. When the plane landed in Kuwait, I looked at my watch and it was exactly five minutes before my 31st birthday. We stayed up all night to try to get adjusted to the time change, so I guess it was probably the longest birthday I’ve ever had.
I could go on for hours about what we did in Iraq, but what I want to highlight today is the impact that the US Army has had on my life. First, I grew up on a farm and there were 7 kids. My parents didn’t have a lot of money available to send me to college. I received an Army ROTC scholarship and was able to go get a degree in Mechanical Engineering from a private university that I never would have been able to go to otherwise. It was all paid for by the Army and the university. The best part was that I met my wife there.
The Army has taught me leadership skills in ways you can’t learn in a classroom. I’ve traveled around for the Army and met people from all over the world. I was at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for some training and worked with officers from Greece, Latvia, Jordan, and a few other countries. After spending a year in a war zone, I have lifelong friends that I share an indescribable bond with that you cannot get anywhere else. The US Army, and probably the other branches of service too, reward things like initiative, creativity, and hard work unlike any other organization does. You can have the opportunity to be put in positions of responsibility you will never get in the corporate world. I am still sometimes in awe of the responsibility I was entrusted with. I was responsible for 130 soldiers and millions of dollars in equipment. These people and their families were looking to me to bring them to a war and back alive. I regret that I was not able to live up to that expectation for some of them.
If you caught it at the beginning of my speech, I mentioned that I had lost three soldiers. Today, I ask that we all honor the memory of SGT Andy Eckert, SPC Kendall Frederick, and SFC Matt Kading as well as all of the men and women who have worn a uniform in defense of the freedom that we enjoy today. Thank you.
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Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2020
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