For Impact


Reflections on Memorial Day

For Impact Ideas | | Tom Suddes

My dad was a Marine Sergeant in the Pacific in World War II.  Quadalcanal, Iwo Jima and more.  My hero.

My brother Mike was a Marine.  Officer Candidate School then Aviation School then flew helicopters.  Also my hero.

Once got a ‘ticket’ for illegally ‘parking’ (landing) in Yosemite National Park with a helicopter full of Marines.

I can’t count the number of my Notre Dame boxers who have served their country … in all branches of the service … in the Gulf Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan.

I went through the Army ROTC program at Notre Dame in the late 60’s.  Not a ‘fun’ time to be in the military on most campuses, but Notre Dame handled it as well or better than anyone.

Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and sent to Fort Benning, Goergia, for Infantry Officer Basic School.  Also squeezed in three weeks of Airborne School, three weeks of expanded Leadership Training, and five weeks of Pathfinder School.

Life/fate is weird.  Every 2nd Lieutenant who graduated from Infantry School at Benning in the five years previous to my class went directly to Vietnam.  Ours did not.  I went on to serve as a Tactical Officer in the Officer Candidate School at Benning for two years.  Then decided to try to go back to Notre Dame to be the Boxing Coach.

It’s been 40 years.  Most of you would not have been present or actually remember the treatment of our soldiers returning from Vietnam.  A ‘political war’ in a country that was largely ‘anti-war’.

Today, we give a standing ovation to a designated military person at the beginning of every Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game.  We applaud veterans in uniform when they walk through airports.  We give up our first class seats so that they may have a more comfortable ride home to their loved ones.

All of this respect is richly deserved for the men and women who serve our country now … in the past … and the future.

And, yet, there is the VA hospital nightmare, an obscenely high number of veterans homeless and jobless, and a high number of soldiers/veterans with life-changing physical disabilities and probably an equal number suffering stress and mental challenges integrating back into society.

What can I do?  I’m one person/one family.  I can’t save/change their lives.

Soooo not true!  You can BE FOR IMPACT.

  • You can give to help homeless veterans through your local homeless shelter organization or the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
  • You can invest in a program at Craig Hospital where they are doing some of the most amazing work in Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Research that can have a dramatic effect on many of our returning veterans.
  • Finally, you can help veterans and their families with a JOB!  These are some of the best trained men and women in the world.  They should not be jobless in the United States of America after returning from preserving our freedom and our society.
    ***If you’re an entrepreneur or a business owner, go out of your way to find some military veterans that will add great value to your company and organization.  If you’re in the 3rd Sector (aka not-for-profit/For Impact world), these people will give you the kind of dedication and and commitment that they gave to their country.

Special Note:  If you’ve ever been around me for longer than 10 seconds, you know how inordinately proud I am of my five children and seven grandchildren.  My oldest grandchild, Savannah (Savvy) Bridgid Heinlen, was born on St. Patrick’s Day 2000 … a lucky, lucky, lucky day for me.

Here’s her short story on how to help a veteran:

Last year her class went to Washington, D.C.  Bumped into a group of the ‘Greatest Generation‘-veterans from World War II at their Memorial.  They went up and talked with them and learned about HONOR FLIGHT.  They returned from that trip … and decided they wanted to help other veterans with that same experience.

Fast forward one year.  With the help of their principal and a great social studies teacher, a handful of students led by Savvy and Lauren, set a goal of raising $8,000 to help another group of World War II veterans go to Washington, D.C. for the day.

That proverbial apple may literally not fall very far from the tree.  They raised $24,000, which allowed them to send over 50 veterans to visit the World War II Memorial this past Saturday!


I attended the program at school a few weeks ago and had the honor of meeting a number of these World War II veterans, as well as current representatives from all of the branches of service.  The school then played the ‘fight songs’ of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.  It was chilling.

A dozen 14-year-olds helped provide one of the best days/experiences in the lives of 50 men who served our country in World War II.



P.S.  Visiting the Memorials should be on your Bucket List.  If  you haven’t taken your kids or grandkids to Washington just to see all of the Memorials … start planning that trip to our Nation’s Capital.