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Capt. David Taliaferro, 31, operations officer, New York Army National Guard 369th Sustainment Brigade, just deployed to Kuwait:

My name is David and I am a U.S. Army officer. A week from Monday I will leave on my fourth overseas deployment. It’s 2011 and I am a staff officer in Afghanistan. I am in my office and a young soldier comes running in. And he’s from one of the support companies and he says ‘Sir, sir, hey. We got a convoy leaving in 20 minutes but we are short people. Can you come with us?’ I said, ‘Hell yeah.’ Run over, grab my gear and I am out the door. I jump into the third truck, I get the brief and we are off and going. And everything is going great. Like textbook… We get up, resupply the base that needs help, drop all the supplies off and we are on our way back. WE slow down. Something’s not right.

BOOM! The led vehicle in the convoy gets hit with an IED. It’s automatic. I become a machine. What happens next, orders pass. For 15 hours, after the medevacs, after we recover all the vehicles. We are back on base and we are all in a room together, all the soldiers that made it back. And we find out one of our soldiers didn’t make it.

I am in this room with all these soldiers who I just went through this traumatic, crazy experience with – people I should feel extremely close with. And when I got that news, I felt completely alone. I felt alone.

Why do I tell you this story? I tell you this story because in that moment when I felt alone, I learned that I was trying to make space to process what was going on. What had happened to me. And I learned as a leader, that it’s important not only to take that time for yourself, to take that time for your soldiers, the people that you work with. The people in your communities. Tonight, all of you have done that for me. Thank you.

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