Character, Service, and Sacrifice • Chaplain George Youstra

Summary:

What does a career look like when its very purpose is to embody character, service, and sacrifice? It looks exactly like the career of military chaplains. Chaplains play a critical role that touch every aspect of military service, from battlefield counseling to advising the highest levels of command. Being a good chaplain means being an influence for good, building relationships of trust, and continually focusing on others. These are abilities that all of us could use ourselves. Chaplain George Youstra will be our instructor.

About our Guest:

Chaplain George Youstra (Col. ret.) led a distinguished 38-year military career. He most recently served as Command Chaplain for the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM).  Prior to that, he served as the Joint Staff Chaplain and command chaplain to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also advised the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, one of the eight four-star generals he served. Chaplain Youstra, a former Green Beret, is also an ordained minister for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.

Useful Links:

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, BY: William McRaven

Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations, By: William McRaven

It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, By: Colin Powell

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, By: Eric Metaxas

The Servant as Leader, By: Robert Greenleaf

Special Forces Ethics Field Guide: KSL interviews authors Brad Agle and Aaron Miller about their experience consulting the US Special Forces. 

Retirement Ceremony for Chaplin George Youstra

About Merit Leadership

At Merit Leadership, we teach ethics as a skill. With innovative training and consulting programs, we can help your organization turn Peril into Opportunity. To learn more, visit http://MeritLeadership.com.

Pleasant Pictures Music:

Join the Pleasant Pictures Music Club to get unlimited access to high-quality, royalty-free music for all of your projects. Use the discount code HOWTOHELP15 for 15% off your first year.

Transcript
George:

Oh, it is where we're going to probably have the sofa

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and cushions and the dinette and are in our Airstream recovered.

George:

And we'll take it to an Amish upholstery shop to have it done while we're up there.

Aaron:

That's cool.

George:

Just fair, but quality.

Aaron:

Oh, you just reminded me.

Aaron:

We bought an old couch.

Aaron:

It was a pretty big sectional.

Aaron:

We were looking around to find somebody to repulsor it.

Aaron:

And we found this guy who just ran this business out of his little garage

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and we thought, oh, this sounds great.

Aaron:

And then maybe we take this thing over to this guy and he looked a hundred.

Aaron:

Yeah.

Aaron:

He just like really old.

Aaron:

And he was this kind of squat, really tough guy.

Aaron:

And you could tell, he'd been pulling fabric.

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His whole life, because his forearms were like as big around as my legs.

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And the funniest part about him is he was, he was deaf as a post.

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And so his wife would come out as we're talking with him about

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what fabric we wanted to choose.

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And so on, she would translate by basically yelling directly

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into the side of his head.

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That was the way he heard everything.

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It was so funny.

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And I looked at Katie and like I said, you know, it was a decent sized couch.

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I was like, we're going to kill this guy.

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We're going to be the cause of his death.

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He's going to be repulsed during our couch and he's going to die.

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You could tell for him, it had been no big deal, but he was a resilient.

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Hi, I'm Aaron Miller.

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And this is How to Help a podcast about having a life and career

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of meaning, virtue, and impact.

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This is season one, episode five, Character Service and Sacrifice.

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How to Help is sponsored by Merit Leadership home of the

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Business Ethics Field Guide.

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The world has too many injustices to count, but one of them is this the most

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famous military chaplain in history.

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His father John Mulcahy, the fictional chaplain played by William

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Christopher and the TV show mash.

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Now this isn't to say that he wasn't a delightful, hopeful, lovable character.

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But if he's the only thing you know about chaplains then get ready for a fascinating

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episode, instead of that meek, naive, and sometimes silly father Mulcahy.

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I want you to instead imagine a six foot eight former Green Beret with a deep

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resonant voice and a disarming confidence.

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Imagine someone who has served in Latin America, working against drug cartels,

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in the middle east fighting terrorists, at the Pentagon advising the chairman

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of the joint chiefs, and at SOCOM, the central command of us special

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operations forces, that person you're imagining is chaplain George Youstra.

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And he's my guest in this episode of How to Help.

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Chaplin Youstra is an Air Force Colonel a rank, which if you're unfamiliar with

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the Air Force is only out ranked by people with the word general in their title,

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but it's incorrect to call him Colonel.

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He goes by chaplin.

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Just like the other, nearly 2,800 chaplains currently serving

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in the military, like them.

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He's also a religious minister in his case for the Fellowship

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of Grace Brethren Churches.

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Today, we're going to learn all about chaplains, but about a lot more than that

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too, we're going to learn about character, and extreme circumstances, about a career

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dedicated to serving others and about the kind of sacrifices that go without the

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fame and praise that they really deserve.

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So let's get going with my interview of Chaplain Youstra by having him tell

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us about where it all started for him.

George:n I graduated from college in:George:

parochial school in central Illinois.

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That's where I met Rose my wife and I was making the

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whopping total of $8,000 a year.

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And then I was actually.

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Made an extra $200 a year if coached a couple sports and maybe even drove

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the bus to school in the morning.

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And by my second year, I was making a whopping $8,400 a year.

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And I thought to myself, boy, I'm not making it each month.

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So I did something that I'd always wanted to do.

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I actually joined the Army Reserves because at that time

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that a hundred dollars a month seemed like a whole lot of money.

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When you're only making $8,400 a year.

Aaron:

Yeah.

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That was a car payment.

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That was something significant.

George:duate in the Army Reserves in:George:

training in the summer during between school year, and went back the next

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summer and went to my specialty school, which actually was nuclear, biological

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and chemical warfare specialist.

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And then shortly thereafter, after teaching a couple of years, in Illinois,

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I went to Washington DC where I was an aid for a Senator Thurman from South

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Carolina, worked for him for a year or so.

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And in the district of Columbia superior court district

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area, doing some work there.

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And then I moved back to South Carolina to teach in a high school

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in South Carolina, where I'm from.

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And I went back to officer candidate school, got commissioned as an officer in

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the South Carolina Army National Guard.

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My father had been working in the federal government as an Ronald Reagan appointee

George:he department of education in:George:

As that administration was coming to the close, he became a president of

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a small christian college in Florida.

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And he asked me if I'd come down to work for him.

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So as I was finishing OCS and teaching in South Carolina, I

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said, what would I like to do?

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And I found out that there were special forces in the Florida Army National Guard.

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So I came down to Florida and I went out to one of the units and

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said, Hey, I'd like to be a Green Beret and they'd say, oh, really?

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You'd like to be a Green Beret.

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Well, let's see about that.

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And I say, well, what do you mean?

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He goes, well, let's go outside right now and take a PT test.

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And so I was wearing Dockers blue jeans, no socks and a t-shirt.

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And they gave me a PT test and I had just finished officer candidate school.

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And I was in really, really good shape.

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And I did really, really well.

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They said, okay, we'll let you try out.

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So that's how I got into the Army Special Forces.

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I was in third Battalion 20th Special Forces group in Florida.

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While I was working at my father's college, Clearwater Christian

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college in Clearwater, Florida.

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And so I did that through the mid eighties, to the early nineties.

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It's funny to me how Chaplain Youstra describes this career

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path in such a casual way as though none of it was that big of a deal.

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Being a Green Beret for example is a very big deal.

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It requires exhaustive, physical training, extensive tactical, and academic training,

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and even learning a new language.

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There are only around 7,000 Green Berets at any given time out of nearly

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half a million Americans currently on active military duty, despite the

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incredible accomplishment of becoming a Green Beret Chaplain Youstra still

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won't make a big deal out of it.

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That's just the kind of guy he is.

George:

And, you know, my experiences is Green Beret is a little bit

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different from what is today.

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We are more traditional in what we did, you know, that the SF mission for

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years was to train indigenous forces.

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And so my experience more often than not was training people like working

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for Ollie North in Honduras, trained the Contras against the Nicaraguans, you

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know, the Sandinistas or training the Columbia army to fight Pablo Escobar.

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Um, running airborne schools and certain other countries, you know,

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partner nations, where you know, Green Berets today do amazing things

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that are running national strategic policy and Afghanistan and Africa

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and things around the world better.

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Their mission sets are so diverse compared to what we did.

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So I'm still humbled and in awe of some of the things that they

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do now compared to what little Lieutenant Youstra did many years ago.

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So how does an army Green Beret become an air force chaplain?

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Right about the time of the Gulf war.

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I went to Indiana and began pastoring a church for eight and a half years.

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But in the meantime, I continued to be a officer in the army national guard.

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I just moved from a unit down in Florida up to one in the Indiana area.

George:ntil I came on active duty in:George:

I looked at leave the pastorate, come on, active duty.

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And I called the army.

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The army was going to suit me as a chaplain right back.

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I wanted to be a chaplain now, and I'd gone back to seminary, got my degree,

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and that they were going to stick me right back into special forces.

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My wife and I discussed it.

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And that was probably not a good thing with our little children at the time.

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So I actually knew nothing about it, applied to the Air Force and

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became an Air Force chaplain.

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So that's how I became an air force chaplain.

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And then the rest is history.

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So I spent 14 and a half years in the army.

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National guard made it to a major promotable, took a reduction in

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rank and came in to the Air Force as a Captain in the Air Force.

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And that's how I became an Air Force chaplain.

Aaron:

Wow.

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I have a lot to say about what chaplains do, but I really liked the way

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he Chaplain Youstra summarizes his role.

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I'm going to let him get us started by explaining how the role of chaplains is

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actually rooted in the U S constitution.

George:

Yeah.

George:

So I think when you talk about the role of chaplains, we got to understand

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the chaplains have two roles.

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First of all, we are the protectors of the first amendment, right?

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For the free exercise of religion or the free exercise to not worship.

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If that's how your conscience sees fit all Americans, wherever we go in the

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world, do not check our first amendment rights at the door, just because we

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may be in another part of the country or we're serving in the military.

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And so we as chaplains really protect that right.

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And we do that two ways.

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We either, we perform a religious right or need, you know, by doing

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religious services for people, or if we can't perform those needs, you

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know, my faith tradition is maybe different from your faith tradition.

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So I can't give you rights or things that you would require

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I have to provide you someone,

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find somebody who can provide those needs.

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So that's one of the first things that we do.

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And of course we do counseling.

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We do all sorts of those pastoral type things.

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And that's one side of what we do as chaplains.

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The role of a chaplain doesn't stop there.

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Commanding officers at all levels of military leadership are assigned

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a chaplain and this chaplain is meant to participate in discussions

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about big, hairy problems.

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And they're not, they're only for religious counseling.

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But the other side is we are the moral and ethical advisors to commanders.

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And that's a historical role that we've had for years.

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I'm very passionate about is to keep this important historical role as a

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moral and ethical advisor to commander.

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Because once you find out, just because something is legal,

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doesn't mean it's ethically right or it's the right thing to do.

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And we're finding the tendency today within leadership is a commander is

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facing a tough decision or something.

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He may look to his lawyer and ask, can I do that?

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Is it legal?

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But it may not be the right thing to do.

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And so one of my passions as I become a more senior chaplain is to try

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to reclaim and regain this role as an ethical advisor to a commander.

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So basically we provide and we protect for religious freedom and,

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we're also moral and ethical advisors to commanders or anybody who's

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seeking some advice and wisdom and help helping them process through a

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difficult situation they may be facing.

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So after all this, I hope you can appreciate the big shoes.

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The chaplains are asked to fill.

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It's easy to imagine.

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A military devoid of religious freedom and devoid of ethical advising.

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The consequences of that absence are chilling.

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It's one thing to talk about this role in principle and entirely

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something else to feel the grit of it.

Aaron:

When you think back on your experiences and your service,

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what were some of the most tricky ones ethically speaking?

George:

You know, I think some of those things, a lot of them are born

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out of one-on-one relationships.

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It's that soldier, sailor, airman, Marine who comes to your office, shuts

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the door because they know that the one thing that chaplain has that nobody else

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has is 100% privileged communication.

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When you talk to a chaplain, it stays with the chaplain.

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He won't divulge it to anybody.

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It is, it is completely private.

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And I think it's in those moments that.

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I've been able to, I think have the biggest impact on

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processing through these things.

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And in many ways it may be post event to maybe something that happened and

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the decision that happened in combat.

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I want to pause here so I can introduce a problem

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that chaplains face all the time.

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It's something called moral injury.

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Most people are familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder

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known historically as shell shock.

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PTSD is a condition brought on by extreme danger.

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You probably know a veteran, for example, who prefers a quiet evening

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over fireworks on the 4th of July.

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This is because the sound of explosions, triggers, memories, and powerful emotions

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tied to their experiences in battle.

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This is just one of the common symptoms of PTSD, but there's a related condition that

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comes from something other than danger.

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It comes from having to carry out the heavy burden of fighting a

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war, where we ask our defenders to hurt and kill our enemies.

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Very few people can do this without experiencing extreme

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stress and discomfort.

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And once it's done, you can never take it back.

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What happens for some of our veterans is an immense weight from feeling

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guilt for simply doing what we've asked them to do for their country.

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War is ugly and unintended consequences happen all the time.

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And it's our veterans who carry the weight of that ugliness for years after.

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That is moral injury, where they act in ways they'd never would otherwise.

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And it brings the pain of a choice that they can't take back.

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In time.

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The past is that person continues to struggle, with whether it's a

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fighter pilot in Serbia who was called in on a legitimate target.

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And put his bombs down range, but by the time he lands his aircraft back in

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Italy, you know, he's met at his plane with lights on and with armed guards to

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get the tapes out of his car because he's being accused of, of killing civilians.

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When they do the investigation, they find out that he had taken out legitimate

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targets, but the Serbians were putting civilians inside military targets

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like convoys and military vehicles.

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They would put civilian vehicles within that.

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And by the time his plane had landed, they had dragged all the destroyed

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military vehicles away and left the civilian vehicles burning and called

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in all the press to say, look, the Americans are doing atrocities.

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And so this, this pilot was really struggling and scarred several pilots

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with, did I do something right?

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Did I do something wrong?

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You know, I was told these were legitimate things.

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And so he was in this ethical dilemma, you know, it's violation of his own personal

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conscience, his own personal values.

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Of taking non-combatant lies when reality was, you know, Serbians were doing things

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that were unethical by putting civilians within military targets, but he would

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struggle with that and come see the chaplain we'd process through those things

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and try to talk through those things.

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So, those are where I've seen a lot of opportunities to really make a difference.

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The professionals who treat PTSD have been making progress

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and treating moral injury as well.

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In part because their symptoms overlap, but moral injury is distinct enough that

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new or adaptive treatments are needed.

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For example, we've learned that where PTSD has triggers related to fear, moral injury

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is marked mostly by feelings of shame.

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Therapy often needs to focus on coming to terms with what happened and

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practicing self-forgiveness chaplains can play a role in that process.

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But combat, isn't the only venue for ethical dilemmas, nor is it the

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only way to suffer moral injury.

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People in all kinds of work may find themselves in difficult circumstances

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that feel ethically wrong.

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It's common in medicine, for example, especially during moments

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like a COVID-19 outbreak that leads to the rationing of care.

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So moral injury can happen to anyone, not just those in combat many military

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service members face tough dilemmas in much more traditional workplace settings.

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And then, then there are the same questions.

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Maybe someone's being put into a difficult situation at work and

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he's struggling with whether he should do or the right thing to do.

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And in doing so.

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You know, you're able to help him process through possible directions and

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outcomes and actions that they can take.

Aaron:

So that's a fascinating thought to compare the difference

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between the ethics of combat, like with the pilot you mentioned versus

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the ethics of just sort of day-to-day operations and military service and

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how do you, how do you best prepare?

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It seems like it, I don't want to say there are two sets of separate rules.

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I think fundamentally, you know, good ethics is, is sound, no

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matter what your circumstance.

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But how do you prepare service members for the challenges of day-to-day

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operating in an ethical way, but also acting ethically in the heat of combat?

George:

Well, I think those are things that different services at

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certain levels are doing differently.

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For example, if you're going through special forces, qualification course,

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Q course, they all have some, some ethical dilemmas within your training

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because they are living in this gray area, this is a right or wrong.

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How do I make the right decision?

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And what are the implications of those decisions?

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And so they help them try to work through those things.

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Personally speaking, I think the best thing you do is you have to,

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you have to weigh these battles and fight these battles in your own heart

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and mind before you ever get there.

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If you're going to be a fighter pilot, And you're going to drop bombs on targets that

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are going to affect the lives of people.

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You have to already have weighed that decision in your life on

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whether or not can I do that?

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Can I take a life?

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Can I do something that might hurt other people?

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Long before you ever get trained to be a pilot.

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Those decisions gotta be made earlier in your life.

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I think of a quote that I learned growing up.

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In the school where I grew up, its said a test of your characters,

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what it takes to stop you.

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Well, you've got to weigh those battles in your character long before

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you have to make that decision.

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In the Bible, I'm a chaplain so I tend to default to those things.

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There's this story of the prophet Daniel.

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Back in the book of Daniel, it's really the story of his life.

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Very early in his life.

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There's a verse in Daniel 1:8, it says, but Daniel purposed in his heart, he

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made a decision in his heart when he was a young boy that he was going to do

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the right thing all through his life.

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He was going to be true to his values.

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He wasn't going to.

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Take on the Babylonian ways, the Persian ways he was going

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to do God's way all the time.

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And he made that decision very early.

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And so if you follow the life of Daniel, whether he's being thrown into the

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lion's den or he's giving counsel to the king, he was always true to his

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value system and his belief system.

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And I think we have to decide beforehand.

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What we're willing to do and what we're not willing to do.

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And then we have to consistently practice that throughout our life so

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that when we're faced that we use the term in the special forces or in the

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special operations, where, when we're on the X, when we're on the target,

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we've already decided what we're going to do and how we're going to react.

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And I think it's the same thing in our life.

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Those are decisions that really, are made, practiced, and executed

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long before that moment of crisis.

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That crucible of action that happens, that causes us to make that tough

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decision because we practiced it and we've, we've embedded that into our own

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psyche and our own moral belief system.

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Did you catch the wisdom?

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Chaplain Youstra has chaired here.

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If moral injury is the result of violating your core ethical values,

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then you're more likely to avoid it.

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If you are clear ahead of time, about your actions, making sure that

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they align with your values, there's power in preparation, there's

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power in purposing in your heart.

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This is good advice for all of us.

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If we're careless about how our work and our values align.

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We will be much more likely to find ourselves in situations

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that compromise our character.

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Chaplain Youstra is telling us that we need to know in advance what we

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want our ethical standards to be.

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And then find opportunities to practice upholding them.

Aaron:

Yeah.

Aaron:

See, that's, I'm fascinated by that description because there's this idea

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that the moment of crisis is what reveals the true character of a person.

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It seems like there are a lot of people who probably prepare for those moments

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and still struggle or still break down.

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And I'm curious what your thoughts are, what distinguishes the

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people who say, no, this is right.

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And I'm sticking with this versus the people who have gone through the

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preparation, but then find themselves in a moment of weakness because of the

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urgency of the moment, backtracking on what they had decided to do.

George:

We throw around the term a lot moral courage.

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I think it's truly is moral courage.

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You know, John Wayne used to say courage is being scared to

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death, but saddling up anyway.

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And I think it's the same thing.

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If you go back to the idea of Daniel, Daniel makes this promise in his heart

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that he's going to do the right thing.

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And then when the king forbids people to pray to any God, but that king.

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Daniel every day went to his window and he prayed the same prayer

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every day with the window open.

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So everybody heard him and he never violated that.

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He just did what was right.

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And consistently, if you follow the story all the way through his

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biography and the narrative of his life, it's the moral courage to do

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the right thing from the beginning.

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And whatever consequences come are coming.

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But when it came time to make some really tough decisions later as life, they were

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difficult decisions because in the very beginning, he says, I'm not going to

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eat that diet because I can't eat that.

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According to my faith, I can't pray that prayer because I can't

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do that according to my faith.

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And so I think it's the same thing.

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It's it's these.

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Muscle reflexes, these brain reflexes that have been exercised time and time again.

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When, when I'm an infantry officer, my weapon jams and I have a M four M 16 type

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weapon without even thinking I do what is called an immediate reaction drill.

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I put the weapon on safe.

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I dropped the magazine and pulled the charging, handles the rear.

George:

I checked the magnet.

George:

I checked the chamber.

George:

I put the magazine back in, or at least the charging handle.

George:

I put the weapon on fire and I fire it.

George:

When I come out of the airplane and I have a parachute on, and all of a sudden

George:

my parachute used to not responding like it's supposed to, there are certain

George:

things that I do not thinking of,

George:

I check up, I look at my canopy, I'd polarizers apart

George:

to see if I can untangle them.

George:

And there's certain steps that I go through.

George:

If I'm leading a convoy and all of a sudden we're in an ambush, and I know

George:

exactly how to respond to that ambush because there's no time to think these

George:

are things that we do in the military.

George:

When you're a pilot every day before you mission brief and you go take off on a

George:

mission, they go through your emergency procedures and it becomes second nature.

George:

I think one of the most amazing things is going to YouTube F 16 crash or some of

George:

these other things that are on YouTube.

George:

And there's one that you listen to the pilots as their engine

George:

on take off starts coming apart.

George:

And without missing a beat their tone, doesn't change.

George:

They just start going through their emergency procedures

George:

on how to restart the engine.

George:

You're just going through their checklists that they've been

George:

practicing time and time again.

George:

And the last thing on the checklist is bailout bail out bail out.

George:

So they are just going through the whole, you can watch the heads up

George:

camera in planes, nosing towards the earth, and it's going into the ground.

George:

And all of a sudden they get to the end of the checklist.

George:

The engine didn't restart.

George:

Bail out, bail out, bail out, there, they eject.

George:

Thats what they've been trained to do.

George:

And I think it's the same thing in ethics.

George:

You got to practice your personal values and your personal beliefs

George:

so that when you're in that moment, I think, can you stand up to it?

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If I told you that you need to find a way to practice your values.

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Is this the kind of practice you think of?

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This is about making effort with a goal of improvement, real practice.

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We have to find little opportunities to maintain our character.

Narration:

So the big dilemmas don't catch us unprepared in special operations.

Narration:

There have been some highly publicized ethics issues in the last few

Narration:

years, perhaps the most well-known scandal was the one surrounding

Narration:

Navy seal, Eddie Gallagher.

Narration:

Who is accused of killing a captive unconscious teenage combatant, as well

Narration:

as firing on civilians, that story plus others from around the same time,

Narration:

created an image that special operations forces, wasn't some kind of moral decay.

Narration:

Congress even ordered an ethics review to be conducted by

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special operations command.

Narration:

I asked chaplain her about this and about what military commanders wish

Narration:

that all service members understood about the need for ethical behavior.

George:

In, our context, in the military, I think sometimes they wish

George:

they understood the, the national and the strategic implications of

George:

the poor decisions that they make.

George:

I think that they don't realize that by making this decision, it's not

George:

something that just affects them or affects their, their mission, but it

George:

also affects our whole nation, by how we are perceived by others, by whether

George:

or not people can believe our word.

George:

When we start dealing with strategic national policy, there's a corporate ethos

George:

or mentality that goes along with that.

George:

And what affects one of us affects all of us and.

George:

If you're a Green Beret and you're a member of a 12 man

George:

team, one person does something illegal, it reflects on all of us.

George:

I think what's interesting.

George:

That kind of has been missed in the national story of chief Gallagher

George:

and some of the other fauxpa that have been mentioned that happened

George:

in the special operations world over the last few years, that, that the

George:

press seem to miss when they made the assumption that there is a, an ethical

George:

issue within special operations.

George:

The way these people were really found out was they were

George:

turned in by their team members.

George:

The most sacred thing within a special operations community is the team.

George:

That's the, that's the thing that knits us all together.

George:

And when you have to find out that someone in your team has done something

George:

wrong and it reflects on all of us and I'm going to make sure I get it right.

George:

The fact that those people were essentially told on by the members

George:

of their team tells you that.

George:

I think that maybe there was a good ethical climate in those

George:

organizations because they didn't want to tolerate those things that

George:

was going to reflect on all of them.

George:

And, you know, it's expected that we make decisions that reflect on all

George:

of us and we make those decisions, whether they're right or wrong.

Narration:

The truth is that sometimes one person's moral failures brings out

Narration:

the deep ethical resolve in others.

Narration:

You may find yourself in a similar situation someday where you'll need to be

Narration:

the one who stands up for what is right.

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That takes the kind of moral courage the Chaplain Youstra was talking about before

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for the next part of this interview, I want to fill in some of the

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details of Chaplain Youstra career.

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As I mentioned earlier, every commander has a chaplain assigned to them.

Narration:

Call the command chaplain.

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In addition to tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, chaplain user

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served in the highest commands that you'll find in the military.

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He was the command chaplain at the air force academy, where he also taught,

Narration:

he also worked for four star general Breedlove, who at the time was commanding

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the air force operations in Africa.

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After completing air war college chaplain user was appointed joint staff chaplain

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at the Pentagon, and then chaplain for general, Joseph Dunford, who was the 19th

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chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

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If you're not familiar, that is the highest ranking military

Narration:

leader in the United States.

Narration:

Chaplain Youstra final appointment was it Socom, the special operations command

Narration:

in Florida, as you can tell from all of this, he has had an extraordinary career.

Aaron:

So you went from serving in the army as a Greenbrier, being an air force

Aaron:

chaplain, eventually serving at some of the highest levels of military command.

Aaron:

What was that transition like from being a special operator to sitting with generals?

George:

You know, well, first of all, you don't get it to be with

George:

four star generals over night.

George:

And so there's many, many, many years from point A to point B.

George:

And so it started by, I think the fact that I had a little

George:

credibility when I came into the air force, because I was a little bit

George:

different than other four chaplains.

George:

First of all, I'm six foot eight, and I have a big, deep voice.

George:

And so I, I have a commanding presence that I've just been blessed by,

George:

and that's not me being arrogant.

George:

That's just, the reality is when you're six foot eight, you walk

George:

in the room, you make a presence.

George:

So to that, that's one thing that I've been blessed with.

George:

The other thing is, you know, being a former Green Beret, you don't see a

George:

lot of air force chaplains like that.

George:

So it opened up opportunities for me, whether it, you know, one of

George:

my generals who later on became a four-star general said chaplain.

George:

If you want to reach fighter pilots, you have to do what they do.

George:

And he got me qualified to ride in the back of the F-16 to

George:

where I had almost 400 hours.

George:

Flying F-16 to go into graduate school and studying character leadership development

George:

than writing the curriculum of the Air Force academy and implementing that.

George:

So I had very unique opportunities that opened up doors, you

George:

know, going to war college.

George:

And then getting picked up to be the joint staff chaplain at the Pentagon

George:

and being a chaplain to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and then to

George:

a number of other four-star generals.

George:

Here's what I found out.

George:

And I think it's important.

George:

Aaron is so many of those are all relationship driven.

George:

You know, I've had relationships with most of my bosses.

George:

There've been a couple that I haven't had a relationship with.

George:

And when you don't have a relationship and you've been cut out, guess what?

George:

You're not the advisor.

George:

And so I think I've been blessed to have some great bosses who

George:

wanted a relationship with me.

George:

And when you have a relationship with people, They, they learn to

George:

know you, they learn, they can trust you, and then they value you.

George:

And I think that's one of the things that I've been blessed with on the joint

George:

staff, that general Dunford, who I think was a phenomenal American thought enough

George:

at some point that they brought the chaplain back into this conference room.

George:

And I had a room with a bunch of people with stars on their shoulder.

George:

Even if I never said much, there were opportunities.

George:

Went ahead, opportunities to share.

George:

And I had opportunities to come into his office and the vice chairman general Paul

George:

Selva, who was a great American as well.

George:

But those were very much, relationship-driven where I had the

George:

opportunity to speak truth to power.

George:

And you don't always have those opportunities.

Narration:

I could talk for hours about the insight here,

Narration:

but I'll just make this comment.

Narration:

If we want to be an influence for good to have a chance to persuade others

Narration:

about the right course of action.

Narration:

It will only come after we've built up relationships of trust and credibility.

Narration:

We cannot expect others to listen to us if they don't know us and respect us.

Narration:

Here's a story from Chaplain Youstra about how these

Narration:

relationships can last for years.

George:

I can, remember a fighter pilot who was just struggling with life.

George:

And we were in a position where we were both deployed away from home.

George:

He would medicate himself with alcohol at night and that's not healthy.

George:

And so I would go get him at 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock at night, and we would go do

George:

something for an hour or two every night.

George:

Just so he wasn't medicating himself with alcohol and we would just

George:

talk and process through things and, and help get through things.

George:

And he's become a very, very dear friend through those years.

George:

And that's been.

George:

You know, 15, 16 years ago, since, since we walked those journeys and,

George:

you know, he went on to a very, very successful military career, but still

George:

a very close friend of our family.

George:

And it all began because.

George:

I walked into him one day and, and was just kind of being a smart aleck with him.

George:

And he was me and a smart aleck back.

George:

And he said, you know, and he wasn't a religious person at all,

George:

but he figured, you know what?

George:

I might be able to talk to that guy.

George:

Who's kind of a jackass chaplain, and maybe we can build a relationship.

George:

And when I looked back at night after night, after night, I was

George:

alone and away from my family.

George:

He was alone going through difficult times.

George:

And, but the end result was we became very closely bonded as friends.

George:

And those are the things that has helped me through the years.

George:

And he's helped me through problems in my life, that bond of respect and as it's

George:

really been a precious treasure to me.

Aaron:

Okay.

Aaron:

Time for some final reflections, thinking back on the reputation that he built

Aaron:

and the experiences that he's had.

Aaron:

I asked Chaplain Youstra, if there were any that were most important

Aaron:

in shaping his personal ethics.

George:

I, I don't know that I would have thought about it in that term.

George:

I think when I look back at becoming a Green Beret and making

George:

it through that part, like, first of all, it was a long time ago.

George:

A lot of things have changed through the years, but the

George:

thing that stands out to me.

George:

Most is what Churchill said in the light of the blitz and

George:

everything that's going on.

George:

And at that time in England, he just basically said never, never,

George:

never, never, never, never quit.

George:

Whether you are the special forces qualification course, or, or you were on a

George:

mission where you were walking along long, long distances and you were exhausted

George:

and you did want to take another step.

George:

It was always about.

George:

Never quitting, always finishing.

George:

And if you take that in, you.

George:

Synthesize it down to the essence of ethics.

George:

That's what it is.

George:

It's boiling it down.

George:

What's the right thing to do.

George:

And you do the right thing every time and you don't quit doing the right thing.

George:

And I think that's an important lesson to learn for, for us, whether it's, you

George:

know, not quitting in the middle of the Green Beret qualification course not

George:

quitting in the middle of a a marathon,

George:

whether you've got to walk the last 10 miles, you walk it and you get

George:

across the finish line, whatever you do in life, you don't quit.

George:

You're there to do what's right.

George:

You're there to serve your employer.

George:

You're there to serve your God.

George:

You're there to serve.

George:

And your team, all those things.

George:

We don't quit on each other and we don't quit on ourselves.

George:

And so I'm not going to quit on my, my value system.

George:

I'm not doing quit on my theology.

George:

I think it's more difficult knowing when to vocalize.

George:

Um, but I believe is right or wrong from my worldview.

George:

And knowing when to interject myself into a situation where it may or may not be

George:

appropriate for me to do those things.

George:

But to me, the life lesson I learned out of being a special

George:

forces officer and being anything else in life is not quitting.

George:

And so that, that is from my personal life to my professional

George:

life, to my spiritual life.

George:

And if I do fail and if I do fall, I get up, I brush my knees off, I

George:

apologize who I need to apologize for.

George:

And I get back on the horse again

Aaron:

Don't quit.

Aaron:

A common misconception with ethics is that moral courage comes down

Aaron:

to one moment to one hard decision.

Aaron:

The reality is that it takes hundreds of decisions.

Aaron:

Every time you decide to do the right thing, you'll have

Aaron:

to decide again, minutes later.

Aaron:

And again, hours later.

Aaron:

And again, days later, the secret to moral courage, isn't courage.

Aaron:

It's endurance.

Aaron:

Being a chaplain is very hard work.

Aaron:

By the way, it often requires difficult conversations late into the night.

Aaron:

It means helping carry the heavy burdens that others can't carry anymore.

George:

Some of the most fulfilling times in my life are when those bosses

George:

of mine, whether they have lots of stars on their shoulder or they are

George:

just a captain squadron commander just wanted to talk to me we shut the door.

George:

And they made, uh, yelled and screamed because their boss was saying, telling

George:

them to do things that were not right.

George:

Or maybe they were going through a heartache or frustrated

George:

and they just needed to cry.

George:

And I'll be honest with you.

George:

It didn't matter.

George:

It was that young person out of the borrow into the rank structure,

George:

that person would lots of stars.

George:

I think that the fact that I was ushered into that sacred trust to be

George:

able to just process and walk that journey with them, that, that they said.

George:

I trust you enough and you've earned my trust enough that I'm going to invite

George:

you into this quiet, sacred spot.

George:

We're going to shut the door and no one else knows.

George:

This is just me and you.

George:

And I trust you with that information, but I have to talk to somebody

George:

and I want to talk to my chaplain.

George:

Those are the moments that I will remember the most.

George:

There are, there are a lot of special times.

George:

You know, whether it was a young airman in the dead middle of the desert or act

George:

coming in, shutting the door and putting a gun in his mouth and said, chaplain,

George:

give me one good reason not to pull the trigger and don't tell me, Jesus loves me.

George:

Well, That kid was in crisis.

George:

He needed somebody.

George:

And I was glad that he came to see me or someone who was even more significant

George:

with that, dealing with the stresses who just said, I just need to talk to somebody

George:

and you're the only safe person I got.

George:

Please come in here.

George:

Those, those are the times that I, at the end of the day, I will remember

George:

the most because they were built on relationship and they were built on trust.

George:

And I would dare tell you that those relationships did not end when I ceased

George:

to be their official chaplain anymore.

George:

I continue to be their friend long after that.

Narration:

Well, it's time to end.

Narration:

So let's end with this, the true essence of being a chaplain and

Narration:

the kind of motives that we could all take as an example to follow.

George:

I think.

George:

When you wear the uniform and I think as a minister.

George:

I think you've got to learn pretty early in life that it's not about you.

George:

You can't allow yourself to be selfish with your time and with your talent,

George:

with your ability, because if you're worried about, you know, how much

George:

time you're spending and you're going to be very frustrated because it's

George:

not about us, it's about others.

George:

And.

George:

When you get those priorities, right.

George:

And it's always a fine line because I have a responsibility as a husband.

George:

I have a responsibility as a father.

George:

I have a responsibility to all these other people who are vying for my

George:

finite about a time, but I also have to be willing to, maybe go talk to

George:

somebody when it's not convenient.

George:

For me, people don't generally go into crisis between eight to five

George:

on Monday through Friday, it's usually in the middle of the night.

George:

It's usually, you know, that suicide happens at a, at a horrible time

George:

that, um, accident happens at a difficult time that child who's lost

George:

happens at an unpredictable time.

George:

And so I think you, you learn very quickly that you can't be selfish

George:

with with your time and ability.

George:

And oh, by the way, if you're selfish about who you are, how you're perceived,

George:

you're not going to act ethically because you've already started from a fallacy

George:

you've already started from a bad point.

George:

You're all, we'd already determined that I'm going to do what's right for me,

George:

with my time, and all these other things, instead of what is the right thing to do.

George:

And so I think that the bills should be.

George:

Unselfish is very integral.

George:

And as a, as a minister, as a chaplain, as an officer, we realized

George:

that we're here, first of all, service to our nation servants, to

George:

those who are entrusted to our care.

George:

And then somewhere down the line service to ourselves.

Aaron:

God bless the chaplains.

Aaron:

What an example for all of us, something, or someone has

Aaron:

been entrusted to your care.

Aaron:

I believe this is true for all of us, and I hope we can all be there to help,

Aaron:

to comfort, to hear and to give courage, imagine a world full of chaplains.

Aaron:

I'm so grateful to my guest and friend, chaplain, Georgia.

Aaron:

Getting to know him has been a tremendous opportunity, and I'm thankful that

Aaron:

he spent the time for this interview.

Aaron:

If you're interested in hearing some of his sermons, we've

Aaron:

linked to them in the show notes.

Aaron:

If you enjoy How to Help, please take a moment to give us a positive

Aaron:

review in your podcast app.

Aaron:

It really means a lot to us and it helps other people discover it too.

Aaron:

Also be sure to subscribe.

Aaron:

So you get future episodes automatically.

Aaron:

Please take a look for our newsletter too.

Aaron:

You can find it @how-two-help.com.

Aaron:

Which is also linked in the show notes.

Aaron:

Now be sure listen to our next episode with social entrepreneur

Aaron:

and superwoman Melissa Sevy, she's traveled the world, working with

Aaron:

local artisans to help them build international markets for their products.

Aaron:

And she has some amazing stories to tell.

Aaron:

She's also one of the most resilient and cheerful people that I know.

Aaron:

We're grateful as always to Merit Leadership who sponsors this podcast

Aaron:

and our production team, which includes Cyndi Hall, Travis Stevenson,

Aaron:

yours truly, and Eric Robertson, who did the editing and the music.

Aaron:

Our music has always comes from the Pleasant Pictures, Music Club.

Aaron:

If you want to use their music in your projects, you can find a link

Aaron:

and a discount code in our show notes.

Aaron:

Thank you so much for listening your trust and your time means the world to us.

Aaron:

I'm Aaron Miller, and this has been How to Help.

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