Remembering a Ranger – a message of wisdom and service – thank you, Colonel Kail, RLTW


photoIn January, my son sought advice about Ranger School from a man he trusted who had been there, done that way back in 1998. (Massive understatement)*

At the time, Nathan had no idea how treasured this email would become only six months later.

On July 24, 2013, Colonel Eric G. Kail passed from this life into eternity with Jesus after a valiant fight with transitional cell carcinoma. Amidst tears of sadness, Nate, the Hubs and I were reminiscing about Eric’s impact on our lives. During that phone conversation, our son casually mentioned this email and began to read it to us.

With my (now) Ranger’s permission, today I share this email as a sort of eulogium to a great man. Even if you’re not in Ranger School, my hunch is you will appreciate the insightful words written by a man of great honor, Christian faith and wisdom. Eric would get a kick out of knowing he was featured again in my blog! He was always such an encourager.

Here’s the email…


Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished so far, and for snagging a Ranger School slot. Thanks for asking, here’s my two cents.

1. Ranger school is not fair, nor are the people who run it. I don’t mean that negatively, but rather just as a fact. I saw far better soldiers than me not make it through the first week due to injury and some were even picked on and singled out until they quit.

2. Try to learn something about yourself everyday and acknowledge the work of your peers. No one likes an overt cheerleader who comes across as trying to get the squad to like them. However, quiet and man-friendly encouragement goes along way.

3. Consistency is key, especially when you are member of squad and not the patrol leader. Spotlighting is only working hard when you are in charge, and it is an ugly thing.

4. Remember the school is designed to get you to your worst point, and then deal with it. So, things like packing list changes and last-minute fragos are by design and not something you should ever let get the better of you.

5. You’ll have moments and days when staying at Ranger School is the last thing you want to do. Two things help. First, always find something (never someone else) to laugh about. Second, you’ll spend your entire army career helping soldiers over come hardship. So, learning how to pull yourself out of despair is a good skill to acquire.

6. Never feel sorry for yourself, although you may want to daily.
Keeping a journal of just a few comments or bullets each day will help you reflect on this when you are back in the real world.933882_621564467863032_1204880649_n

7. Enjoy becoming a dangerous and competent man, but not pridefully. Our society is too quick to put sweater vests and choir robes on Christian men and to domesticate them into mediocrity. We need strong warriors who understand unconditional love and possess the will to manage violence in our defense.

8. Most, if not all of the learning you will accomplish is about yourself and your failures while in Ranger School. You’ll learn some cool stuff, but more than anything you’ll learn the value of never quitting. I had to remain in the elevated push-up position for two hours one evening because some instructor wanted to get an LT to quit. Two hours seemed like an eternity then, but merely a blink of an eye now. Funny thing, I ran into that instructor years later and we had a good conversation on my terms. He was a small, angry man inside and out.

9. On your worst days, remember that your future soldiers and NCOs are counting on you to finish what you completed. Don’t worry if you get injured, that happens to the best of them. But when you show up with your tab, your soldiers and NCOs will know that at least you finish what you start.

10. Soldiers only want to know one thing about you. Will you take care of them or drive them like a rental car. Completing ranger school tells them up front that at least you know what it feels like to be driven like a rental car and are less likely to do it to them.

Hope this helps. I’m very proud of you Nate.

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img_2250* By the way, Colonel Eric Kail was Ranger certified in 1988. He also did some other awesome things like marry a wonderful woman, have two kids and other important things like get a Ph.D. and publish a series on leadership in the Harvard Business Review. Eric served for over 25 years as an Army Field Artillery Officer in both conventional and special operations units. He has several combat deployments, including Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom. Among Eric’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device for Valor. While our family knew Eric as a close personal friend, Eric was most recently the course director for military leadership at West Point.

On behalf of my entire family, Eric, you will be missed but we mourn not as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). See you soon, Colonel Kail.

Other blog posts you might want to check out:

When strangers speak the truth


Have you ever had someone who doesn’t really know you, say something very profound to you?

And have you noticed that when that happens, that person usually is clueless as to the depth of the statement s/he has just made?

If you answered yes to these questions, you will understand what happened to me today at the Apple Store.

I had scheduled a One-on-One appointment with a skilled Apple technician because as of Wednesday, I became the proud owner of a brand new aluminum 15″ MacBookPro. This computer purchase was necessitated because I was never the owner of the MacBookPro I have been using years with my job.

But when I lost my job in June, essentially I lost all rights to that computer. It wasn’t mine, was never mine and they deserved to get it back. It’s as simple as that. On this cloudy summer day, I brought both computers to the Apple Store to make sure I had transferred all the personal stuff from the old computer to my new “baby.”

Austin, the Apple guy, guided me through the process and everything was going quite well. I had been looking forward to the appointment and getting the job done. With great ease, Austin helped me and erased non-work items off the computer.

And then he said it…

“There won’t be any trace of you on this computer.”

And with a nod of my head, Austin clicked a few more things and 1,866 items began to disappear before my very eyes.

I choked back the tears. I thought to myself, “Don’t cry. Don’t. Cry. You’re at the Apple Store for Pete sake! Puh-lease!”

So I adjusted my emotional big girl panties and didn’t cry. Wow, that wasn’t easy! There were some quiet and awkward moments where neither Austin nor I spoke.

Photo flashback of my previous life. I was blessed to do this and relieved when it was all over. Eight years was enough.

Photo flashback of my previous life. I was blessed to do this and relieved when it was all over. Eight years was enough.

I composed myself and watched the computer transition from being something I used and personalized to being just another piece of work equipment ready for someone else. Austin was right. There isn’t any trace of me on the computer.

I hope I will be remembered for the work I did and the love I poured into it. But more importantly, as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, oh how I want to have lived a life that matters. I pray that the traces of me I leave behind are worthy of the life I was given.

Psalm 103:15-16 and verse 22
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.