Retired Army Maj. Gen. Patrick H. Brady, who served for 34 years all over the world, shared some of his hard-won life lessons on leadership with students of TMI – the Episcopal School of Texas during a special Veterans Day presentation in the school’s All Saints Chapel.
“I have been blessed in having been around some of the great leaders of our time,” said Brady, a helicopter ambulance pilot for two years in Viet Nam, who received the Medal of Honor – America’s highest military honor – for a series of rescues during which he used three helicopters to rescue more than 60 wounded. Through the Medal of Honor Society, Brady got to know World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker and World War II fighter pilots Jimmy Doolittle and Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, as well as more recent leaders such as generals Norman Schwartzkopf and Colin Powell and lesser-known individuals.
“Over the years, I have watched these great men and I noticed some similarities in them,” Brady told students. Leaders, he said, are exposed to “hard training and education. The more challenges you experience, the more difficult they are, the better chance you will have of…becoming (a leader).”
The “combat courage” required of service members is not the only kind needed to be a good leader. “The toughest courage is the courage required to face the drill of daily life,” he said, “to do what’s right in the unending conflicts of life. Physical courage can win battles, but moral courage can change the world.”
Among other key leadership virtues, Brady also cited humility – “honest self-examination” – imagination – “the ability to create something new by combining current knowledge and previous experience” – and self-discipline, “the thing that ties all this together.”
The shortest definition of leadership is “simply taking care of others,” said Brady, one of the most decorated living soldiers and co-author with his daughter Meghan Brady Smith, an Iraq war veteran, of “Dead Men Flying: Victory in Viet Nam,” a book about wartime air-ambulance operations that rescued more than one million people and set a new standard for combat medicine.
“Most of us will never change the world,” he told the students in conclusion, “but we can do a lot if we just go at it one coworker, one child or one neighbor at a time.”