Three Things I learned from My Mentor and WWll Veteran Hero Over the Last 33 Years (#3 Could Change Your Life)
I call it your “Personal Math Identity.” In essence, it is the sense that all of us are merely the sum of the 3-5 people with whom we spend the most amount of time. I was fortunate to learn and be shaped by an extraordinary man who participated in some of the most significant events of World War ll including as a paratrooper on D-Day. Samuel Forcucci taught me a lot over the course of our 37-year friendship. The relationship started when Sam was the Chair of the music department during my undergraduate pursuits. I would eventually declare two majors and two minors as I was determined to aggressively get as much out of the college experience as I could. That brash, aggressive and immature version of me would quickly run “full-speed” into the calm, giving and mature spirit that Sam consistently generated. That contrast in spirit would change my life forever. I write this in memory of my dear friend who passed away recently at the age of 96.
Lesson Number One: Who You Are May Change Who Someone Becomes
Sam never bragged, boasted or belittled. It seemed as if he had resolved to live a life that built others, supported others, nurtured others. If you had an idea that was moral, ethical, and legal, then you had a supporter in Sam. He was willing to bring any and all resources into the conversation to help you think through a strategy to achieve your ideas. It was impossible to not “take notice” of Sam’s remarkable giving spirit. He took our musical ensembles on tour every year and would inevitably reach into his wallet on more than one occasion to help a student who had spent their week’s budget in the first 2 days of the trip. Sam simply and consistently lived a life that clearly made the statement, “I am invested in your success.” That made me ponder, “Hmmm, I wonder what behaviors I want to exhibit?” By living out his life mission to serve others, Sam was also teaching us what would become some of the most important lessons of our lives. If someone was a student of your life, what would they be learning?
Lesson Number Two: Whatever You Go Through, Let It Make You Better
Sam enlisted and served our country as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. He was involved in some of the more significant conflicts in WWll including D-Day, Battle of the Bulge and the final sweep in Germany. He experienced fights and frights that I will never fully understand. What is clear to me is that Sam dedicated his post-war military service to a life of community service. While serving our country, he won 4 battle stars and while serving our community, he won several honors including the Salvation Army “Others” Award and the Senior Citizen of the Year Award. When I graduated from college, Sam immediately encouraged and sponsored me to join community organizations that were focused on volunteering. I would later realize that he was shaping my character, and exposing me to other adults of high integrity. He would invite me to join his Jazz Quintet (already populated with like-minded veterans) and through that experience, continue to model their philosophy of giving oneself to your community. Not only did Sam focus all of his life experiences on giving to others, he shaped the lives of many others to do the very same. By letting his life experiences make him better, he also made others better. His legacy lives on in all of us who continue to focus on community service. How are you using your experiences to help others?
Lesson Number Three: Pour Into Someone Else And Your Cup Will Never Run Empty
Sam invested in me. He always made time for conversation and he had a remarkable way of making you feel that during his time with you, you were the most important person in the world at that moment. He was a powerful mentor. He simply poured into other people without hesitation. My classmates have countless stories about Sam stepping out of the ordinary process to enable their success or personal growth. One of my favorite stories about Sam is when the Theater Department refused to do any type of a musical production, Sam allowed a student to write and direct their own musical revue as an extra-credit class assignment. The musical review was a success with each performance serving standing room only. Sam was in the business of changing lives and enabling the success of others. He also had a famous sense of humor. I can’t recall any of our lunch meetings over the years where the conversation didn’t start with the latest clean joke that Sam recently mastered. So, I was not surprised when even his final note to us had a punchline: (excerpt)
“When my time comes, I ask that you not weep over me for I have led a long and n charmed life.
…And had the unique privilege of bringing joyful music to thousands of people.
When my time comes, I’ll be watching for you.
Don’t be in a hurry.”
As the years progressed, I would gradually move further and further away from where Sam was living. I would give him a call around Veterans Day because Sam was significantly responsible for helping me to understand and respect what many have called the greatest generation. Ironically, the same week that Sam passed away was the same week I had the honor of speaking to hundreds of military veterans at a conference in celebration of military appreciation month. It was an apropos time to be able to share Sam’s story and tell of his powerful legacy.
All of us pour our time and energy into something. Are you pouring your time into mentoring someone else?
Learn more about the remarkable 82nd Airborne Division – Click here: Focus on D-Day
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