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Episode 26

Episode 26: Making Positive Change: Lessons in Leadership with Retired Colonel Tom Brewer Part 2

Description

On this episode of Veteran LED, John Berry continues his conversation with retired Colonel and Nebraska State Senator Tom Brewer about his journey and the valuable leadership lessons he learned while serving in Afghanistan. Brewer’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance, compassion, and the aspiration to make positive change. Tune in as he shares inspiring stories on how to make a difference globally and locally, despite facing difficult obstacles and limited resources.

Transcript

Making Positive Change: Lessons in Leadership with Retired Colonel Tom Brewer Part 2 

John Berry: 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. Welcome back to veteran LED on our last episode with state Senator and retired Colonel Tom Brewer. We covered one of his firefights in Afghanistan, which became the subject of a book called The Boneyard. In this episode, we discuss the leadership lessons that Tom learned throughout his career and his continued efforts to create positive change not only in his home state, but worldwide. You complete this amazing military career, and then you decide to go into politics. Why? 

Tom Brewer: Well, I didn’t really I didn’t really plan on it when I finished. Of course, after the RPG attack, I spent two years in the hospital getting rebuilt, going through surgery after surgery. And and that was a long, hard process. And what was hard about it is. I lived through this and this was occupational therapy, physical therapy. This was because the traumatic brain injury, you know, you have a speech therapist and you have a neuropsychologist and and so literally your whole day, every day was going from doctor to doctor, doctor. Now fortunately, Madonna is great and there who worked with me, but I literally two years of my life was spent trying to get back to normal, and I was trying to get that so I could redeploy. And at the end of it, the army does an eval and says, you’re too broken and we’re going to retire you. Well, the whole goal you work for just got yanked out from underneath you. And I was in a in a bad place. I was like, you know what? This this is just this is so hard to figure out what to do now, because everything you have done in your life evolves around serving your country and going and and doing things in far away places to to represent your country. And and now I’m left, you know, kind of crippled up with a cup of coffee in the morning, scratching my head, wondering what to do. Well, fortunately, I was I was blessed to get a call from a guy in Montana. 

Tom Brewer: And he goes, listen, we have a new program we’re starting. It’s through Wounded Warriors. It’s it’s to do equine with wounded soldiers. And we’d like you to come in and be a part of this. Well, I grew up on a horse. I mean, that’s what our primary means of transportation. When I was a kid and my father had packed hunters into the mountains. So I knew how to how to do that part of it. A little rusty, because it had been a number of years. But I said, you know, that might be good, something to do and get me out of this kind of dark place I’m at. And I went to Montana, just outside of Bozeman, and went through the equine training, which was really kind of a walk in the park for me, but there was a lot of wounded soldiers that were there. It was all new to them, and all of a sudden I realized I was teaching them how to saddle horses and how to care for horses and how to trim hooves. And, and and it felt like a natural fit because I understood where they were in this dark place, and they were trying to go from no life. As a matter of fact, a couple of them had already attempted suicide to a place where they were learning something new, and they were finding out that this world where they didn’t feel like they had any value, all of a sudden they did have value and they were learning something new and they were enjoying it. 

Tom Brewer: And then after the first 5 or 6 days, then we took them into the mountains for a week, and we taught them how to start fires with just sticks, you know, mostly native traditional skills which just happen to know a few of them and how to navigate in the daytime without a compass and how to how to kind of manage the the terrain there, understanding, you know, where, where to go, where not to go on, on horseback. And so what happened was all of a sudden, I went from being kind of in a dark place to where I kind of enjoyed what I was doing. So they said, well, would you stay here and be an instructor? And I said, sure, I’d love to. And really, for the next two years, I during the season that we could ride was up there doing that and I saw guys had lost limbs. And we’re trying to understand how to use the replacement limbs all of a sudden, get this level of confidence that they could ride a horse and they could hold reins with, with a hook or a replacement hand or whatever it might be, and, and use a leg that wasn’t their leg and, and probably the one that that won my heart the most was a young man from Massachusetts who had been shot in the head in Iraq, in, in Fallujah and had lost part of his brain. 

Tom Brewer: And the part of his brain that he’d lost was his short term memory. So we would teach him how to saddle a horse, and the next day he wouldn’t remember. So we’d have to teach him again. And what happened was that on about the third or fourth day, transitioned to long term memory. And then he could remember and and so we continued to work with him and kept him over for a second class. And it was through this process that that he was able to learn to ride, learn to pack, learn how to do all these things. And he went from someone who literally had sat at home staring at a wall, thinking that his life was over to trying out for the police department in Boston. Now he could be a police officer because of his injuries, but what he could do would. He did a service, kind of like a a resource officer in the schools, and he would go in and teach and do things and, and took him from no value to really someone who was contributing back to his community. And so you were doing something where you felt you were making the world a better place. And I had family come to me and they said, listen, we want you to run for the legislature. And I said, guys, I’m not a politician. I don’t know anything about being a politician. As a leader. 

John Berry: You are the Anti-politician. You are the guy that told us how it was. You were never. Yeah, no. Tom Brewer was known as the anti-politician of officers, the one who who always put the team first. So that’s why I’m so curious. So the family asked you to do it, and you say I’m not a politician. So how do they. How do they twist your arm? 

Tom Brewer: Well, what they did is they they talked about all of the things that needed to be done that were. Being neglected, and the guy who who had the job had promised to do all these things and hadn’t done them. He was up for re-election, and he was going to win by default because no one was running against him. And they said, just try throw your name in. And I said, I don’t like taking a but weapon here. He’s a millionaire. I have no money. And they said, please for us, just try. I said, all right, all right, I’ll do it. So I threw my name in the hat on the last hour of the last day that you could register to run. Well, this is another mistake, because you want all the time you can to run. More time is to your advantage. You get to meet people and go places. Well, to my absolute shock because I went to a few sale barns and a few events, but I had two months between registering and the primary and the primary. I beat him over a thousand votes and didn’t do anything, didn’t spend any money, just drove around, visited some people.  

Tom Brewer: Well, unfortunately, what that did is unleashed the dogs of hell upon me in that he was able to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars to run against me. I didn’t have any money to run against him. And some of the wounded veterans that had worked with me in the in the program came to me and said, let’s ride across the district and we’ll visit these towns and meet these people. And we don’t have to. We just need hay and hot dogs. And I said, really? You guys would give up because we did the math. There’s about 580 miles around the district, because I got the biggest district in the state and one of the biggest in the nation. And they go, yeah, well, I’ll bring my pickup and my horse trailer. And one of them said, well, I have the mules and I have the horses. And I had a couple of my, my nephews that chimed in. And, and Tony Baker, who’s now my chief of staff, he and so all these people that I had known from, from the guard and from the Wounded warrior program or the, the, the equine program. They all come together. And we all met in Ainsworth, Nebraska, on Labor Day weekend, which was the Brown County Fair, and met folks at the fair. And we started to ride. And so you’d have a team that would jump forward and they would set up the next location, have hay for the horses, tents for the guys, food ready. 

Tom Brewer: And we just leapfrogged from town to town, and we would travel about 25 to 30 miles a day, about the normal distance. You travel with horses and the pace they hold. But the ironic part about it is they built towns about that far apart back when they built towns, because that’s about how far they could go without wood or coal or water for the old rail system. So if you run up there and you look from Ainsworth to Johnstown to Valentine to Crookston, Kilgore, Cody, those, those towns are all at that distance. So we just simply started leapfrogging across Nebraska and the district, the 43rd district. And you would come to these towns and, and the American Legion Auxiliary women would come out and they would have this potluck dinner and people would come to the park and and they came because no one ever comes to these little towns in the middle of nowhere. And so they want to meet you. And they’d evaluate how well you were taking care of your animals, because that was probably how well you were going to treat people and how you treated your horses and your mules. And and we just simply went from town to town in Merriman, Nebraska, a town of 120 people, 200 and some people showed up and and what happened was all of a sudden I went from down ten points in the polls to up ten points in the polls, because once you looked them in the eye and they were sold, that you were the right guy, you could get all the mailers you want, you could have all the commercials you want, and you couldn’t win someone’s vote. 

Tom Brewer: And and it it turned out to be a brilliant move, which again, don’t don’t give me credit. It was it was some of the veterans who believed in me and, and spent a month and a half either riding a mule, a horse or driving across the district, helping me to win. Well, now. It was a situation where there was nothing he could do, and he I think he did end up spending almost a half million to a few thousand that I spent. But he couldn’t change the polls, because once you win the hearts and minds, you pretty much have the hearts and minds. The problem was, I was a I was a dog that caught the car and I got to figure out what to do with it. And and so then I had this passion to help veterans and help the ranchers and the farmers and the people of the district that needed help, that were neglected for 4 years. Because what was obvious is if you go to a job as a state senator and you do nothing, you take that part of Nebraska and you make them invisible and they have nothing. And so now I felt very obligated. And there were native issues, too, you know, remember that we were the ones as soon as I hit the ground there that took on white clay. 

Tom Brewer: And for those that don’t understand, white clay was a small town, actually, of 11 people. It was on the Nebraska South Dakota border, and it sold about four and one half million cans of beer a year to the Native American population. Just north of there, about one mile, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where I grew up. And they literally poisoned this reservation. We had 23 kids in the neonatal with with infant alcohol fetal syndrome. And so I took it on that we had to close these liquor stores. So there was a lot of reasons for that. When I worked Counter-drug, we knew that there was issues of human trafficking, of prostitution, of of illegal alcohol sales, murder. I mean, there was a lot of things that were happening up. There were just horrible. But Nebraska didn’t really want to deal with it. South Dakota didn’t want to deal with it. The tribe couldn’t deal with it. So this was this no man’s land of evil. And within a few months of getting the job, I was able to convince in the liquor Commission. They made the decision to because they were failing to do what they were supposed to do to keep the liquor license. We closed them. We destroyed some of the, the the houses that were like flop houses. We built a new senior home there. We we built there’s two now. There’s $2 General stores. There’s a maker space. It’s went from this town of people laying all over and death to now it’s this thriving little town that has businesses and they interact with the reservation. 

Tom Brewer: And there’s one child. When I was up just a few weeks ago, one child in the hospital, infant alcohol fetal syndrome. So, you know, you take on challenges, whether it be veterans or Native American or ranchers, and you figure out because the ranchers are listening, they said, listen, they’re trying to build these wind towers in the sand hills. We want to protect the Ogallala Aquifer. We want to protect the beauty of the sand hills. We don’t want people to see this mass of wind towers. We want to we want to keep what our fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers who settled this country learned to love and protect. And so that become one of my missions in life. And I shared with you how last week we had a committee hearing on small modular nukes and people get scared about the word nukes. But remember that we’ve had these nukes on our submarines, on our ships for 40 years and never had a problem. And that’s run by young men and women in their late teens or 20s. So the idea that we could have a small modular nuke the size of a couple of cognex’s, that could, could light all of northwest Nebraska or southeast Nebraska and not have, I mean, one of these units can account for hundreds and hundreds of wind towers. And guess what? They work 24 over seven. They don’t need no wind. So there’s all kinds of issues. 

Tom Brewer: But what you learn when you become a senator is that you have so much responsibility to fix things, and you can either work long hours and do it or just let folks down. And I just I never want to and I was blessed to have a great staff, I still have I have a great staff, but it does mean a lot of hours. And I worry that when I’m done, I need to transition the next guy with all of this information. If I could hand over all of the history, all of the information on how to deal with all these issues to the next guy, then that’s success. That’s that’s doing the right thing for the people you represent. And I went from this anti-politician to I mean, I was a politician, but I wasn’t a politician in the sense that I told them things and then did something else. I made it my purpose in life to be sure that if I told them I was going to do something, whether it be stop wind towers or clean up white clay, or make sure that veterans retirement pay was protected and de taxed. That’s what I did, because that’s all you’re going to have left with the dust settles. 

Tom Brewer: And sometimes I see these guys who become colonels or generals in the guard on active duty. And when they’re done, they cut the ties. They walk away. They go somewhere and do something. But that association with the men who helped them, protected them and made their careers possible are gone, and they don’t do anything to help them. And I always felt that if if you’re helping me be successful and you’re there when I need you, whether it be on a shooting team or whether it be Katrina or wherever it might be, I have an obligation to help you in every way I can, and that’s if that means free parking permits. So you can go to state parks if that means hunting licenses, if that means detoxing your retirements. There’s all these things. Homestead exemption for veterans. All these things were working. That makes our lives better beyond retirement. And that’s my way of saying thank you. Thank you for being there when I needed you. But that’s what we need more of in Nebraska. Legislature are veterans who are willing to to really do some hard work and remember the veterans so that they don’t walk away and give nothing back. And that’s what has always troubled me, is, is, you know, if you are blessed enough to be able to have a military career and move up into whatever rank as an NCO or officer, and then to sever that walk away from everyone and never give anything back. You’ve done an injustice. 

John Berry: And I think you’ve at that point too, you’ve lost the most important thing, which is that camaraderie and that understanding of all the lessons. Tell us just a little bit about your family and, of course, the story about the blood Wings. And for those of you that are listening, don’t know about Airborne School and Blood Wings. Back when I went through, it was still a thing you would when you’d finished. Jumps go up to three weeks at the ceremony, you would get a airborne qualified soldier, would give you your wings, and they would pound it into your chest with the they would take the backs off. And so these two bars would go straight in your chest, and they’d pound it into your chest and there’d be a little bit of blood. And they pulled it out. And that was part of the ritual. Well, Army didn’t like that so much. People complained, thought it might be hazing. And so that went away. But it doesn’t go away for some heroes. So let’s hear about your family’s involvement in the military and of course, the Blood Wing story. 

Tom Brewer: Well, I think I’d have to start by just sharing a little about my father. So my father is as rough as a human could be. Some compare him to Rooster Cogburn for a number of reasons. He only has one eye, wears a patch. He was Ranger class, too, so he’s old school ranger. 

John Berry: That means the second class to earn a Ranger tab is your father? 

Tom Brewer: That’s correct. And he went to Korea. Back then, the Rangers were put into companies. They were used for long range reconnaissance, kind of like the LZ. And he was assigned to the second Infantry Division, ironically, the Indian head Division. And he he was wounded twice, once by a mortar round that landed in the foxhole he was in. The second time was a jump into Seoul as they were retaking Seoul. And he was he was bayoneted in the chest as he was trying to get up from doing a PLF, a parachute landing fall, and and literally was stuck to the frozen ground with a Chinese bayonet and was able to deal with the guy that that stabbed him. The problem was he couldn’t get up from the ground because he was literally like a tent peg stuck to the ground there and had to wait for one of his buddies to come and unstick him. Well, the other thing was they were isolated and they had jumped behind the enemy, so there wasn’t any way to vacuum. So he basically just had to kind of suck it up and get through it. But he did and went to Tripler. And then when he was done, he was sent back to the United States. They defused the Rangers into different units. He was diffused into the 82nd airborne. And ironically, he was only there for a few months. And they sent him to Nevada for what was called Operation Upshot-knothole and up Upshot-knothole was where they had the 82nd troopers dig foxholes and get down in them, and then they detonated a nuclear device relatively close to them, and it was to see if soldiers would break and run under a nuclear attack. 

Tom Brewer: And I got a kick out of my dad, he said. When the flash happened, he said, you you were sitting in this foxhole as low as you could get, and you could look and see the bones in your hand from this flash is how bright it was there. And he said the idea of getting up and running was nowhere in his mind whatsoever. He wanted to dig deeper in that hole. But, you know, they he had an interesting military career, but he wanted to come back at heart. He was he was a cowboy at heart. So he came back and he cowboyed he he guided hunters. When I was small, we were dehorning some yearlings, and the horn was about the size of your thumb. And the yearling through the horn as he was trying to, to dehorn it and run the horn into his eye. And that’s how he lost his eye. But he wears a patch. He he is a very similar to Rooster Cogburn. Very, very grumpy. And. But also he was sometimes having someone harsh who’s mentoring you is good because life is hard. And if you live up, if you grow up soft, you live soft. 

Tom Brewer: And and there wasn’t a lot of soft when it come to my old man, he you know, you didn’t you didn’t get anything extra to eat or any extra sleep because there was plenty of work to do. But that paid off later in life. But he was in his late 80s when my daughter Kaylee graduated from airborne School. And I came to him and I said, dad, would you like to go? Because that’s a long flight all the way down to to Columbia and Columbus. And he said, yeah, I could do it. So we went down and he did. He did. Well, we’re getting him off the plane, getting the rental car. And we’re driving on to Fort Benning, and he sees the jump towers, and he looks around and took him up by Harmony church, because that’s of course, where he graduated back then. And he goes, I cannot believe how much this place has changed. I said, dad, when was the last time you were here? And he said, well, in 1950. I said, well, you know, things will change in 70 years, you know, so got kind of a kick out. I went to change. The next day was her last jump. We went out on the friar drop zone, and I remember going over to one of the black hats and saying, listen, my father’s here. You know, he hasn’t been back since 1950 and he would like to go out on the drop zone to watch my daughter jump. 

Tom Brewer: I said, is it all right if I go out? And of course, I was in uniform then. And he says, Colonel, you can do whatever you want. So I took him out. And what was amazing was he’s critiquing these kids coming down. He’s yelling at them to get their feet and knees together. And so, you know, here’s this old paratrooper from from long, long ago. And the fundamentals were so ingrained into him that so the commander of the airborne school there saw him and met him. And he goes, listen, I would love to have your father say a few words to the troopers tomorrow. I said, oof, I don’t know. He’s a little rough around the edges. He said, please. I said, all right. So the next day they introduced him and and he was by far the oldest paratrooper there. And he got up and he said, listen, I want you guys to know that I think you’re all a bunch of wimps. And of course I’m going, oh, geez, I kind of warned the guy. He goes, I’ve been here three days and I haven’t seen a single one of you do a push up. And he says, when I was here, we jumped into Friar Drop Zone and we ran back to the airfield. He says, I’m seeing you guys running. 

Tom Brewer: Where are you? Ride buses? He said, if you’re going to be a paratrooper, you need to get hard. And and of course, this poor old lieutenant colonel, he’s he’s wilting, he’s figuring his career is over. And and that was well, no, he had one other comment. He said, and also he says, I’ve been listening to you guys. And he said, every one of you guys want to talk dirty. Your language is horrible. He said, so when you’re up in that C-130, just remember that’s about as close to heaven as you’re ever going to get. So at that point, we got the hook and pulled him off the stage and and they had the airborne wings. And they said that my daughter Kayla would be the first to get the wings because he would be presenting. And he went up there. And as he’s walking up, they make the formal announcement from the president of the United States, then Barack Obama, that the procedure of blood wings is no longer authorized in the United States Army. And my father, being the hardheaded guy he is, walked up there, pinned the wings on and gave her blood wings in front of everybody. Now everybody on stage passed out and all the troopers cheered and screamed. But I thought it was probably a good way for this lieutenant colonel to finally end the day, because if he hadn’t ended his career, he sure did there. 

John Berry: And so you also have sons and nephews as well. And I know we have some photos. So tell us a little bit about that. Well. 

Tom Brewer: I have three nephews who are in Afghanistan with me. They all are infantry and, you know, all NCOs. They all are just good, solid soldiers. You’d be proud of. My son Travis, he’s air defense artillery. His problem was he scored too high on the Asvab. So they they they gave him a job that required, you know, a higher level of intelligence. I guess he programs computers and figures out how to keep the enemy jets from getting too close. But my one nephew, Steve, is the sergeant major for the Airborne Infantry Battalion here in Nebraska, and I had a chance to see him at my uncle’s funeral last week. Got a picture of him and myself and my father together. The three Rangers. And we have my nephew’s son who is in Ranger school now. So we will soon have four generations of rangers together. And I’m hoping to be able to take dad down to his Ranger graduation to pin his tab on him. 

John Berry: Wow. Amazing. Now. I want to get into some of the other humanitarian leadership things that you’ve been involved in. I remember oh, gee, it was probably a couple of years ago. I got a call or text from you saying, hey, you want to go climb Mount Kilimanjaro? And I said, Tom, I thought, I thought you had cancer. And he’s like, hey, it’s in remission. We’re good. I’m going to go do this. Are you going to go do this with me? Unfortunately, I had a federal jury trial set the same week, and so I couldn’t continue it. I couldn’t move it. It was an important case for me. And we won. But it was I regret not being able to go. How do you keep that, that that will to lead going, especially with all you have going on in your life? 

Tom Brewer: Well, I don’t know if I should take a lot of credit there because actually originally it was just me that was going to climb Kilimanjaro. And then I got to thinking, you know, that’s that’s kind of a lonely job. Maybe I ought to see if I can’t find a few folks to go with me, just in case, you know, you have a problem. You hate to be alone in a foreign country and all that. It was harder than I thought. First day you start in a tropical rainforest, and I first, first day. And I could tell I had not drank enough water. I was in trouble. So I actually stayed up part of the night slamming water because I think rangers going places kind of let you know you understand your body and know when you’re in trouble. And so the next day I kind of regrouped. Well, on the second day, we lost Colonel Joy, the retired colonel from Mississippi. 

Tom Brewer: And so it was obvious that not everybody’s going to make it to the top of Kilimanjaro. And but I really wanted to and I knew that short of having a broken leg, and even if I had a broken leg, I might might stumble on the stub if I had to. But I wanted to get up Kilimanjaro. It was a personal thing now, and as time went on and we got higher, I did better in the thinner air than I did down below. And and lo and behold, you know, when I got to the top of Kilimanjaro, you have these things in life where you you stop just for a moment and you look around and you realize that you will never, ever be in this place again, that this will be a once in a lifetime thing. And you want to you want to breathe it in. You want to, you want to hold it forever, but it isn’t long. And of course, you can only stay at 20,000ft about so long and you’re not going to do well anyway. But I never regretted it. I. I was in pain at times because I had both ankles fused from bad parachute jumps, but. When I was done and look back. No regrets. It was a great trip. It was good people. It was a good time. And I think, you know, at the point you quit having bucket list stuff, that’s when life really ends and, you know, you’re you’re just treading time. And I don’t ever want to be treading time. Well, I want to I want to be churning and burning till the very end. 

John Berry: Well. And after that you did. And let’s let’s talk a little about Ukraine because you grew up a presumably a Cold War soldier. That’s that’s how I learned back before Bosnia. I was in Bosnia in 99, but before the train up was we’re going to fight the Russians. And so we learned all about their doctrine and their tactics. And and then Ukraine blows up and you’re on the first thing smoking over there. You’re over there before it even happened. So tell us a little about your humanitarian missions over there. 

Tom Brewer: Well, actually, they weren’t humanitarian missions. What happened was when in 2010, we did not have enough helicopters to do the counter-narcotics mission, so we purchased 22 helicopters from the Ukrainians. Well, just so happened that I could, you know, I could read and write Russian. And I went to Russia in college and studied Eastern European history. So I went over during the Cold War, after I’d been enlisted, and my understanding of a lot of things about Russian history and the Ukraine came from that time. So I had a good understanding of things way before I ever went over to pick up these helicopters. So we did commercial air into Kiev. We inspected the helicopters, then we flew them down and through the Hindu Kush and back to Kabul. And it was several shuttle trips that that I did to get those helicopters moved down there. And the people of the Ukraine were so welcoming and so warm and, and I just kind of fell in love with the place. So then when February of 2022 rolled around and I saw what the Russians did, you know, I really affected me because what we, as you said, what we thought would would happen, did happen to them. And the very vehicles that we studied how to defeat were the ones they were using. And I thought, you know what, I want to I want to go see myself. I want to I want to be able to know that I contributed somehow to helping them. My problem was I didn’t speak Ukrainian, didn’t know anybody in the Ukraine personally. 

Tom Brewer: So I was blessed to have a Nebraskan, a kid from the town of Elmwood who was over there, and he was, excuse me. He was at a church camp in February. Of 2022. When the war started, he was he was helping and at 430 in the morning, the bombs started raining in very close to where he was at. He was near an airfield, and he started a mission to shuttle women and children out of the Ukraine. That lasted for months. Well, I sent him an email and I said, listen, I’m looking at coming to Ukraine. Can you help me? And he goes, yeah, meet me in Lviv. So we set a time and a place and we met and he found a young man who was part of the church, I guess, support team, who spoke wonderful English. He became my interpreter kid by the name of Bogdan and. His father was a mechanic and he found a vehicle for us. And so they met me in the town of Lviv, which is just over the Polish border, and we started driving around the Ukraine. Well, what I didn’t understand is that Ukraine is kind of like small town America. He started making calls. And the next thing I know, we’re meeting with the Minister of Intelligence, who was the guy nobody gets to see because he’s very secretive. He’s planning a lot of these crazy ops they’re doing to defeat the Russians. But he wanted to meet me. And then all of a sudden I’ve got all the mayors wanting to meet me. 

Tom Brewer: Well, what it is, is they’re so hungry to meet an American because we’ve made this decree that no American soldiers will set foot in the Ukraine. And we followed that to the degree that we didn’t even let Marines in our embassy there. And we really don’t have an embassy that’s active. Most of what’s being done out of Warsaw, Poland. So they just want to meet an American, and they want to meet you to say thank you. Thank you for saving us. Well, you know as well as I do that it didn’t matter whether we were in Afghanistan or Iraq. You could not walk the streets there and have little ladies come up to you and hug you and say, thank you. Thank you for what you’re doing. And it just overwhelmed me with pride in America, but also with a passion to want to continue to help them. So when I met with this Minister of Intelligence, he goes, listen, we need things and I don’t know how to get the word to America, to the people who make these decisions. I said, well, here’s an idea. Tell me. Let me tell those in Washington, DC what you need. I’ll be your conduit. He goes, all right. And so he started making a list of things like the M777 cannon and Himars. And so we went down this list of things they needed. The M1 tank glues atacms. So gradually those things have have come to them. I’m concerned that we could have done it quicker. 

Tom Brewer: I think there are a lot of Ukrainian lives that are lost because we didn’t move faster, and if we’re going to give them to them, let’s give them to them. Let’s let them win the war. Let’s just be done with it. But we’ve we’ve kind of slow rolled them, but we’ve given them to them. That’s the main thing. And so my trips over each one was a little different in who I was trying to help. Now I also did humanitarian help and that I brought e Bibles over. So an E Bible is essentially an electronic Bible, but it’s it’s small, it’s the size of your thumb with two earbuds. And the reason I brought it over is the mayor of Lviv took me to a huge military hospital. And so this huge military hospital was full of all these guys who had been wounded, and they didn’t have any replacement limbs for them. And they weren’t going to get any. And so they were trapped in a place where, you know, life was pretty dark for them. And I thought, you know what? If you could just give them something to help them, maybe get a better grasp on life and their situation. And you can’t bring Bibles over. For one, it has to be in Ukrainian, and two, it would be thousands of pounds. And you know, when you travel, you have travel light. But these e Bibles, I took 2500 of them over in two suitcases. And so I would go around and and share those with them. 

Tom Brewer: And they were in Ukrainian and they lifted their spirits. I bought every one there was in America that you could buy of these Ukrainian e Bibles, and it was probably one of the better things that I’d done. And as far as helping people, I also went over and we delivered blow out kits, medical kits to the soldiers. A lot of the soldiers on front line didn’t have them. And then that was a very popular thing. But what we did there is we bought them in Poland and brought them over because you can’t wait. And size became an issue. And so each trip I tried to do something different, something it wasn’t just talking with the intelligence or military folks what they need, but also direct to individuals on how to help them. And just like any calling in life, when you make life better for folks, that feeling you can’t replace that just makes you feel like the world is right, that you’ve done what you should do. So I did that, and the most recent trip was this past June. So we we ended session the last day of session I was on a plane to the Ukraine. And this one, now they know me. And so when I hit the ground, I have already scheduled appointments with the Deputy Minister of Defense, the Minister of Intelligence, the Minister of Agriculture, because they see that when this war is over. They’re going to need a lot of things like grain bins. They’re going to need corn seed. 

Tom Brewer: They’re going to they’re going to need tractors. They’re going to need combines. They’re going to all these things. And they looked at a map and said, you know, this Nebraska place has potential to to make our life after this war is over much better because we live on agriculture. Russia lives on oil. The Ukraine, the Ukraine. Is Iowa the size of Texas. And so now they’re coming to me, one me with me. And I feel bad. I’m not I’m not State Department. I’m nobody official in the military. But again, they want to talk to an American. They want to say, hey, we need help now and we’re going to need help down the road. And we have no one to talk to but you. So I have tried to relay information. I’ve even talked to the governor, and the governor is of the same opinion that as soon as this war is over, let’s figure out how to help Nebraska, help the Ukraine. And we had an event a week ago Friday in Lincoln and hundreds of Ukrainians, and we had, I think, almost two dozen senators there. So, you know, what we’re trying to do is build this relationship so that when the war is over, we can help them because the Ukraine is never going to be in Afghanistan or Iraq. We’re always going to be loved there and wanted. And there’s a value added that we would never have in an Afghanistan, because in many ways, they’re so similar to us. Well, and. 

John Berry: You’ve you’ve already handled this before and the ranches and the farms in western Nebraska, and you understand what needs to happen and logistically how the support that they need. And so you become a very valuable team member to them. Now, I also know that while you were over there, you put yourself in harm’s way again. And just by being over there, I think you were even on the news over there, if I recall. And I think I even texted you back and said, Tanya, my death Deathwish, these people are going to see you and and they know who you are and you’re helping. And the Russians don’t like that. But here you are and putting yourself in harm’s way. And I know there are some some pretty dangerous situations over there. But let me ask you this. Bullets didn’t stop you, RPG didn’t stop you, cancer didn’t stop you. And not even the Russians can stop you. So what stops Tom Brewer? Where do you stop, Tom? 

Tom Brewer: Well, probably Father Time is going to be the the one that gets me in the end. But, you know, I guess the thing that that I’m a little lost with now is that on or about the 20th day of April of 2024, I’ll finish my time as a senator and I’ll have to figure out what to do with life. I’d like to think that I would go fly fishing and relax, because that’s what people do when they retire. But I think I would fish for a few days and then kind of be lost because. I think the good Lord puts you on this planet for a set amount of time, and only he knows what that time is. And it’s your obligation to do those things that help others and make this world a better place for everyone to live in. And you’re cheating them and yourself if you’re not doing those very things. And I don’t know what that future is for me. You know, it’s one of those things you pray about and you think that when the time comes, you’ll figure it out. I think sometimes we force things and and don’t let. What is to happen, happen. And so I’m not going to get too worried about it. I’m going to work hard to have a good session this year. 

Tom Brewer: I got some other veterans things that need to be done. I got a school security bill I want to get through. I want to do some things that need done with home homestead exemption for veterans. So we will we will we will go 100 mile an hour until we’re done with the session and then maybe take a few days to fly fish. But something will work out. And in probably the last thing is that through all of this, you know, you got to you got to go back to your, your faith. Because whether you’re jumping out of an airplane or you’re walking into tracers, you know, you have to have a strong belief that when this is all over, you’re going to go and you’re going to stand at the pearly gates and you’re going to be judged. And, you know, some people just don’t want to take the time to to really. Uh, no. The Lord and have have a good heart to. When this life is over, they know that that’s where they’re going to go. And I think you, if you have that, you don’t fear death. You simply live life to the fullest because you know that when your time is done, your time is done. And wherever you are, that’s where you’re going to be. 

John Berry: Thank you for joining us today on veteran LED, where we pursue our mission of promoting veteran leadership and 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 at veteran LED 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. 

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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