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

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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…

Nate,

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:

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Colonel Kail is my friend, part two

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Eric and his family.

Eric and his family.

Lord willing, Colonel Kail will have a retirement ceremony on 31 May at West Point, then the packers will come three days later.

With the diagnosis of stage 4 transitional cell carcinoma, life began to drastically change for the Kail’s. The one thing that hasn’t wavered but remained steadfast is Eric’s optimism and faith.

Eric is an awesome dad and husband. He’s a Colonel in the United States Army and has also 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. Eric also has a PhD in organizational psychology. His latest assignment was as the course director for military leadership at West Point.

Impressed? You should be!

Here’s where you come in. Would you be so kind as to pray for this man? Eric has a few medical procedures to complete prior to heading for Texas. A few new spots on the spine and sacrum causes weakness in his right leg and severe pain and stiffness in both legs.

Though he moves around like a 90-year-old man, Eric retains his wit and wisdom.

In return for your prayers, with Eric’s permission, I am sharing a recent experience he had at the airport.

Here’s the remarkable thing that happened to him at the airport.

I’m very prone to take matters into my own hands and to gut things out, get the mission done without complaining. I was beginning to feel like my ability to do certain things was dropping off and a book I was reading allowed me to spend time covering God’s instructions to Elijah.

Specifically, delivering bad news to Ahab then going to live in a cave during a drought.

God told Elijah that he would have birds bring him food; not the kind of delivery we think about for food these days. Now, I’m not by any means comparing myself to Elijah, but the lesson was clear.

God will provide every internal and external resource needed to do what He calls us to do.

Well, the day after I read this story I met a complete stranger in a crowded airport lounge.

He was an Indian man who is a missionary living in the U.S. and still tied to missions work in India aimed at reaching their remote tribal populations.

In fact, his son had died in his 20s while working as a missionary in a remote tribal village.

We began discussing what we did and he asked about what God has called me to do through my battle with cancer.

I shared with him that unless my health took a positive swing, that I may have to curtail my speaking engagements and such.

Then he asked me if I knew much about Elijah.

I laughed and shared with him about what I had read the day before.

As my son would say, "Colonel Kail is the man!"

As my son would say, “Colonel Kail is the man!”

So, we stopped what we were doing and he prayed for me right there in the middle of a very crowded airport lounge.

He prayed specifically that God would make clear his provisions for me and my family as we set out to do His work.

No way it was an accident that this man and I spent an hour together in a crowded public spot.

It gets better.

The next day, my devotional was from 1 Kings, specifically Elijah’s meeting the widow who had just enough flour and oil to make one last meal for her and her son before they died.

Elijah instructed her to make some bread for him too, and that God would provide for her until the drought was over. She did and her flour and oil never ran out.

However, her son did die while Elijah was staying as guest in her home. She asked if this was a curse from God. Elijah took the boy up to his bed, laid on top of him, and prayed three times for God to restore the boy’s spirit to his body. God did just that.

So, I get the message pretty clearly.

Our natural default is to look for our own strength and resources to do even what God has called us to do, when He will supply all we need.

This is hard to do when coordinating things like a final move, buying a home, arranging travel, conducting a retirement ceremony, and oh yes, battling cancer.

Just like meeting Eric and Gigi at Sunday School many years ago in Apex, North Carolina, God arranged for Eric and this man to bond in a crowded airport lounge. What were the chances of that? I love seeing God move in his people.

Let’s move spiritual mountains for Colonel Kail. Share this with others too.

Eric and Gigi

Eric and Gigi

Please pray specifically for the following:

– That scheduling for moving would fall into place
– That the nerve pain and limited mobility would not get any worse between now and beginning treatment
– That the MRI of his brain would show success of the procedure and no other tumors
– That there wouldn’t be any flare ups while in transit from NY to TX
– That he can physically able to do his retirement ceremony on 31 May

In addition, he has promised to commission FIVE cadets at West Point next weekend. He swore our son in last year and it was such a meaningful honor.

Let us pray without ceasing for this man who so freely gives to others. Bless you, Colonel Kail!

Here is the background story if you missed it.