This past weekend, Robin and I headed out to California to meet the adorable new grandbaby, Calder, and to attend the retirement party for General John Abizaid (pictures below). Gen Abizaid is a member of my extended family and this was the first opportunity I have had to meet him and Captain Rob Shaw, his son-in-law. I was instantly welcomed by the family.
Since I spent a brief stint as an officer in the Army, I look for exceptional leadership qualities in people which I hope to learn from and emulate. I thought I ought to include some thoughts as to General Abizaid’s character (which was clearly in step with, and certainly a product of, that of the rest of his family). Hopefully this won’t embarrass him too much.
First of all, John, as he insisted I call him, seems to be a man of great integrity and true concern for his soldiers, always a soldier first. In only a few hours of chatting with him and the family, I could see how he truly demonstrated love and honor in his military assignments. He clearly leads by example, not with an iron fist or by four-star intimidation. I could tell that people follow him because they love and respect him.
John (knowing that I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) talked to me about his LDS soldiers while he was commandant of West Point and how he had the utmost respect for them. He pointed out that many of them took off two years for church service and that they always returned as better, more mature cadets. HE reminded ME that the 1846-7 march of the Mormon Battalion is still the longest infantry march in US history. Although not LDS himself, he was clearly aware of the invaluable contributions of LDS soldiers.
His son-in-law, Captain Robert Shaw, was also present. Rob, who led an infantry company in Iraq, is also a man of utmost integrity. He also demonstrated his leadership style of patience and example, stressing that he needed to help keep the young soldiers from developing resentment and hatred to the very small percentage of Iraqis who were trying to hurt them. I was especially impressed with this sentiment since he himself was wounded by a roadside bomb that also took the life of his First Sergeant. He has since chosen to return to Iraq for a third tour because he feels that he can make a difference in the lives of his soldiers, as I’m sure he can.
Rob was a friend of Bill Jacobsen, a fellow graduate of the BYU ROTC program who was killed in Iraq. He said that Capt Jacobsen’s memorial service in Iraq was the most difficult he attended because of the great loss that it represented. His eyes lit up when I said I was able to briefly meet Rikka (Capt Jacobsen’s wife) at the BYU memorial service. He was touched to learn that Captain Jacobsen has his name engraved in the memorial hall at BYU. He said that Bill was a good friend, a leader of the first order, and a wonderful human being.
I was inspired by the examples of these Army soldiers: true leaders and good men. And, while this post is mainly regarding military leadership, I don’t want to overlook the great family members that have equally contributed in the success of these military careers!
What a family!!
Donner Lake near Truckee where we stayed
Tour de Ney – Truckee
Calder and Great Grandma
Former lawyer and future lawyer
Enjoying the shade
From outside in: Abizaids (on the ends), the Lunts, and Capt Shaw in the middle
And a beautiful home!