Memorial day is a day of remembrance for those who gave their lives for this country, and it got me to thinking about that Greatest of Generations, among others. It is easy to lament the state of the world today, to say that we are not like our fathers and grandfathers, that they were indeed special.
It is tough to see a lot of folks today willing to sacrifice for the greater good, although there are a few, and we will get to them in a minute.
We say it because it is true.
Now, I am not here to condemn the Millennials, or Generation X, and I am not even t’ t’ t’ talkin’ bout my generation. The fact is, our generations were never tested quite like the World War II generation. And I have no doubt that had we been, we could have risen to the occasion.
But it also seems to me that that generation was special in another way, a better way.
They were willing to sacrifice.
It is tough to see a lot of folks today willing to sacrifice for the greater good, although there are a few, and we will get to them in a minute. Take Congress for example. Is there a better (or worse?) example of people seemingly unwilling to sacrifice for the greater good? No, we think not, and it is especially contemptible given that is their job. (They might want to brush up JFK’s Pulitzer Prize winning book on political sacrifice for the greater good, Profiles in Courage.)
Abraham Lincoln once observed,
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Alas. This too seems not to be.
So, where does the weary turn when hoping to find someone, anyone, willing to sacrifice for the good of someone else?
For starters, we can look at the brave men and women in our military who truly do sacrifice for the common good. First responders generally do that too. Single parents do it. So do teachers.
And yes, so do many small business people. Our sacrifice looks different because there is a profit motive involved, but the thing I know too is that most small business people toil for long hours, not just to make a buck, but to make a difference. They make a difference for their own family, for their employees and their families, for their customers, and for their community.
And if there is one segment of small business that is especially commendable and appropriate to honor this Memorial Day, it is veteran-owned businesses generally, and service disabled veteran entrepreneurs specifically. These are people who not only sacrificed themselves physically and mentally for this country, but who didn’t let that stop them.
Consider Dawn Halfaker. According to a profile on Ernst & Young.com (EY.com), “Medically retired from the military after losing her arm during an ambush in Iraq in 2004, Dawn Halfaker today is the Founder and CEO of Halfaker and Associates (with more than 100 employees) which provides professional services and technical solutions to the federal Government . . . ‘The idea that fueled me to start my business is fueling me to get up and go to work every day, that idea of continuing to serve.’”
Or Phyllis Newhouse, who used her experience in over two decades in the military to create her company, Xtreme Solutions. The Atlanta-based business has grown by 44% on average in the past five years, landing it in on the annual list of the 50 fastest-growing women-owned companies, according to he Women Presidents’ Organization.
Says Newhouse, “I’m a service-disabled veteran and an African-American woman. But I don’t use that as a crutch. It’s your work that speaks for you.”
And it is their work, and their sacrifice, that inspires us. Thank you, and thank you to anyone out there who sacrifices for the good of us all. We need the better angels of your nature right about now.
Today’s Tip: If you would like to know about small business startup assistance for veterans with disabilities and who are service-disabled, check out this SBA page and this one too, and this VA help page.