In this episode of “Veteran Led,” host and former Lieutenant Colonel John Berry delivers an inspiring speech at the Lincoln, NE Veterans Parade. Berry challenges the stereotypes about veterans and underscores their potential as skilled leaders and entrepreneurs. Drawing from his transition from military service to CEO of a successful law firm, he illustrates how the discipline and teamwork fostered in the military are invaluable assets in business. This episode is a powerful call to action for veterans to leverage their unique experiences and lead with integrity in their communities and industries. Tune in for an impactful message that motivates veterans to transform their service into success.
Welcome fellow veterans. From the tip of the spear to in the rear with the gear, I went from active-duty Infantry to reserve-component logistician. I’m your host, CEO, entrepreneur, trial lawyer, and Lieutenant Colonel Retired, John Berry. The military lessons that I learned helped me grow an eight-figure business that has maintained consistent annual double-digit growth, landing on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in America every year for the past seven years, and has allowed me to continue to serve America’s heroes.
When I was asked to serve as the Grand Marshal of a Veterans Day Parade and give a speech, I didn’t want that speech to be about honoring our service. I wanted to talk about recognizing our powerful potential within the veteran community. Here’s the speech:
First and foremost, thank you, Veterans. Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Joe Kelly and Mayor Gaylord Bair. I’m not here today to celebrate you. I am here to challenge you. About a year ago, one of my colleagues came to me and said, “John, we have to do more for the veterans. I want to be involved. I know that you guys have done so much and, and you’ve suffered so much.” And he went on and on about how the veteran community needed his business’s support. And I told him, “We don’t need you. You need us.”
There are some misconceptions about veterans out there. There’s the number one misconception is the size of the veteran community. People say, well, you’re, you’re one of the one percenters. That’s not correct. While there are 1. 4 million members of the military community in the United States of America, there are 19 million veterans. We comprise over 8 percent of the population.
The other misconception has to do with our education; that we are uneducated. The veteran is much more educated than the average American. In fact, 37. 7 percent of veterans either have associate degrees or some college. 28 percent of veterans have bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees or doctorates. But the reason why they need us the most is because our country needs real leaders now more than ever. It seems that our country is more divisive and that our leaders are less trusted more than ever.
Now let me tell you how they fixed that for us day one in basic training or boot camp if you were there. You probably remember. They lined up 16 of us and we were from every origin, religion, race. And they had all 16 of us march over to the latrine and the first guy in line was handed four bars of soap and the drill sergeant said, “Alright, men, you have five minutes to shower and change.” And in that moment, not only did we get clean, but we started building a team.
And when we learned that lesson, it continued throughout our careers. You see, it didn’t matter your gender, your sexual orientation, your race, your religion; what mattered was whether you could trust the service member on your left or on your right to perform their job and to perform it to standard. You see, we all took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And then we were called on that oath when our country called us to war or to a deployment. And we were charged with not only completing the mission, but protecting the lives of America’s best, America’s sons and daughters who were under our care. And we did the best that we could.
When I think of Veterans Day, I think of a speech that President Reagan gave decades ago in which he said, “For those that believe that we live in a time where there are no heroes, well, they just don’t know where to look.” And decades later, he was right. Because you’re not going to find heroes on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or any social media. You will not find heroes on the football field, the basketball court, or the baseball diamond. And you will not find a hero in Washington, D. C. because heroism is the antithesis of bureaucracy.
We need leaders who can step up and do what’s right. And so when my children ask, “How do I find a hero?” I tell them this: “If you want to find a hero, you must go on a journey. And on that journey, you must swear a solemn oath. You must leave your friends and your family. You must meet new people and you must be pushed past your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual limits. And then you must be rebuilt. And then you must learn to lead without authority and without a title. Then you must earn a promotion. And then, and only then, you must look in the mirror. And that is where you will see a hero.”
To my fellow veterans, my challenge to you today and every day, is to go out and be that hero to someone today. Lead your community, lead your company, but most importantly, lead yourself to a bigger and better future and lead by example. So to my fellow veterans, my heroes, America’s warriors. My call to action to you is go out and be a hero to someone today. Thank you and thank you for your service.
Thank you for joining us today on Veteran Led, where we pursue our mission of promoting veteran leadership in business, strengthening the veteran community, and getting veterans all of the benefits that they earned. If you know a leader who should be on the Veteran Led podcast, report to our online community by searching @veteranled on your favorite social channels and posting in the comments. We want to hear how your military challenges prepared you to lead your industry or community, and we will let the world know. And of course, hit subscribe and join me next time on Veteran Led.
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