By MEGAN MCCLOSKEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 24, 2012
Chad Storlie lost five friends from his special operations unit in Iraq. When he thinks of them, he doesn’t imagine the sniper round or the bomb blast that killed them. It’s not how he wants them to be remembered.
Instead, the retired lieutenant colonel recalls each by focusing on their best attribute, carrying their pictures in a binder each day to remind him daily about what they taught him.
“Everyone likes to remember and talk of why these people died or how they died,” Storlie said. “I chose to remember how they lived and the values they had while they lived and while they served.”
Like how Master Sgt. Richard Ferguson taught him how helpful humor can be, and how Chief Warrant Officer Bill Howell showed him the value of professionalism.
Storlie has integrated those lessons into his civilian life at Union Pacific, where about once a month he hands out a Powerpoint slide to an employee with the soldiers’ pictures on it and what he learned from each of them. Four were killed in Iraq and the other committed suicide.
“It takes their sacrifice and brings it into the everyday,” he said.
He talks not about each man’s death, but “what they stood for, what they did and what they represented,” he said.
Storlie hopes in some small way sharing his friends’ stories with those who have never served and have little connection to the military, helps bridge that civilian-military divide.
“Eyes glaze over when you talk about veterans. It’s very difficult for some to understand,” Storlie said. “But when I talk about how Bill taught me the value of professionalism and being really good at your job, people can really start to get it and understand.”
Storlie said creating the slide and using it as a teaching tool has helped him cope with the loss and shake the depression he felt when they died.
“For me, it is not enough to miss these men,” he said. “My way to remember them is to keep their leadership styles and what made them such great people alive and in the immediate memory of a generation that did not have a chance to meet them.”