• May 2020

Working together is the right thing to do

It's sad that events, like the Chamber's annual Armed Forces Day celebration, are either canceled or forced to transform into what would be the 'new normal' for us. We will all do what is needed and change with the new rules of the game in order to find our personal win. While everyone's 'win' is defined differently, as leaders in our industries we often need to make hard changes while at the same time staying true to the mission of our business.

...The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.

Over a half century ago, President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country. Armed Forces Day replaced separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days, a change that followed the armed forces' unification under the Department of Defense. The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated on Saturday, May 20, 1950. The theme was "Teamed for Defense," which expressed the unification of all military forces under one government department. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the day was designed to expand public understanding of what type of job was performed and the role of the military in civilian life. It was the right thing to do.

I learned a life lesson years ago while giving a staff presentation. My PowerPoint was full of numbers, trends and all the cliché power words often used in corporate America. At the end of the discussion, one of the owners summarized our course of action as "It is the right thing to do." That message has stuck deep. I have learned that all the strategic and technical analysis (though important) cannot be allowed to trump your gut and do what needs to be done.

I am privileged to lead the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance in Sioux Falls (the Alliance), a new 501(c)(3) organization positioned to be a national model for military members, veterans and civilian relations. A new startup can be a daunting challenge, especially if it is a non-profit and a venture that has never been done anywhere in the country.

The Alliance is joined by the two leading veteran support organizations in Sioux Falls - VFW Post 628 and American Legion Post 15. Through a united love of country and a mutual interest in preserving the heritage of the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States, a Joint Declaration of full support was signed by the Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America North Central Chapter, Military Order of Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 959, Rolling Thunder, Inc. Chapter 1SD, Sioux Falls Veterans Council, Marine Corps League Dakota Detachment No. 659, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 30-2, Legion of Honor El Riad Shrine, Military Officers Association Great Plains Chapter, Tri-State Navy Chiefs Association, and Warriors Never Give Up. All of these organizations came together because "it was the right thing to do".

In my new role at the Alliance, I'm blessed daily with the opportunity to visit with military members, veterans and their families. They each have their personal story to tell. Yet all their stories, perhaps unknowingly, have a common theme – it was the right thing to do.

This is where the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance comes full circle and helps to create the new normal for military members, veterans and civilian relations. As part of our virtual celebration of Armed Forces Day in 2020, let's take a look at the Alliance and how it's doing the right thing.

As in most business, the first key is to bring together a strategic leadership team. The Alliance is comprised of passionate, energetic and focused leaders. The Alliance team includes veterans, led by the American Legion and VFW, military service members and their families, civilians, business leaders and other key individuals and resources from our community and around South Dakota.

It's A Place for Freedom – Join us in celebrating our country and freedom; be who you are, have fun, express yourself and be involved as you want to be.

It's A Place to Remember – Never forget those before us - those who gave some and those who gave all.

A Place for All – One place for veterans, military service members and our community to come together to celebrate, unify and support others.

Just as Armed Forces Day was created in the spirt of bringing together all the service branches under one central Department of Defense, the Alliance is helping to create "esprit de corps." The goal is simple: create a destination, a military/veteran center unlike any other – one that weaves the civilian community into its very fabric. It is the right thing to do.

"The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it." Let's keep our focus forward.

Brian Phelps is the Executive Director for the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance, Inc. He is a seasoned veteran in several industries including high-tech electronics, corporate branding/marketing and business development. His expertise has proven valuable in building relationships, funding, product development and leadership.

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