The video flickered on, the crowd hushed, and the words echoed in my mind.
On the screen I saw memories of my old life, of my current life, and inspiration for a future life. Images of time in the service, images of the early days of Combat Flags and images of my family shone brightly on large, rectangular screens. A booming voice narrated, offering the story of Combat Flags -- my story -- to a charmed audience.
By this point in the evening, the audience had already heard 5 other amazing stories of good, and yet the applause continued, the standing ovations repeated, and congratulatory handshakes and pats on the back were far from scarce.
And the video ended.
And seconds later I was behind a podium, attempting to eloquently encapsulate the why of Combat Flags, the how of Combat Flags.
I was left in awe as my mind wandered to the meager beginnings of the company and raced ahead as I thought of everything that has happened since.
My words did not come as easily as intended, but they came with emotion, they came with love and they came with admiration. They came with gratitude.
Gratitude for the community around Combat Flags. Gratitude for the steady stream of positive energy. Gratitude for those who believe in my mission.
To my right were glimmering statues – the physical representation of the JCI Top Outstanding Young American Award. And with gratitude in my heart, I happily accepted the award. However, I did not accept it for myself. I accepted it on behalf of everyone who believed in Combat Flags and everyone who continues to support my mission.
Without you, Combat Flags would be a simple idea. Mother Teresa was absolutely correct when she said “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” The simple idea – the stone – was all it took. One swift movement and we’ve created infinite ripples together. The ripples continue to spread and I hear from you on a near daily basis telling me about events you’ve setup for military causes or how you’ve reached out to an old friend just to check in.
A simple “thank you” could never be enough. But thank you for your part in developing a strong, positive community and thank you for sharing my vision of helping others succeed.
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Since that whirlwind of a night, the trajectory of Combat Flags has changed. I’ve talked with thousands of you via email, Facebook messenger, Instagram messenger and even LinkedIn this year. You’ve told me stories of your service, you’ve told me stories of loved ones who have committed suicide following a deployment (or multiple deployments), you’ve told me stories of loved ones who were killed on deployment and you’ve told me stories of hope.