Through the years, I’ve had the honor of speaking to groups after they heard from notables like Michael J. Fox, Sammy Hagar, Jeff Immelt, U.S. Secretaries of Health Tommy Thompson and Mike Leavitt, Warren Buffet and others. They’re the headliners and I usually follow them with a less celebrated presentation about the current issues and future in healthcare.
Earlier this month, in Arizona, I spoke to 3M’s annual healthcare conference following Lt. Colonel Justin Constantine, a Marine who served from 1997-2013. Justin’s story is profound: he was plying his trade as a military lawyer in the Al Anbar province of Iraq on October 18, 2006 when a sniper’s bullet tore through his head. After an emergency tracheotomy by Navy Corpsman George Grant, scores of surgeries and years of treatment, he survived and now shares his story as an inspirational speaker, crediting the Military and Veterans Health Systems for saving his life.
His message was riveting: Leaders lead. Never give up. Don’t be afraid. His scarred face and slurred speech commanded the rapt attention of the 250 in the audience. As he concluded, we all stood in a spontaneous expression of appreciation for this man, his message and his courage.
Later that day, he shared more about his decade-long climb experience as we traveled together back east. And through this week, I found myself reflecting on his ordeal and the roles of our Military and Veterans systems about which I confess I’d given little thought prior.