For those of us who survive a tragic event where others did not, we will spend the rest of our lives followed by a strange sense of guilt. We all asked the question, “Why me? Why God, did You let me walk away when men who were three times the Soldier I was, did not? Men who deserved to live. Men who should have lived. Men with families, children, and wives. Why was I one of the chosen ones? Why me? What am I supposed to do with this?”
You can do one of two things with the guilt. You can get angry and let the unfairness of it all bury you. Or you can choose to let it motivate you. See it for what it is. It’s more than an opportunity or some divine “second chance.” See it as a responsibility, a duty, and a commitment to those who got you out of there to carry on and live a happy life filled with purpose, direction, and motivation.
When I was first given the opportunity to review Keni Thomas’s new book, “Get It On! What It Means To Lead The Way,” I honestly thought I was just going to read another Ranger’s account of the Battle of Mogadishu. That’s not a bad thing, by any means. I didn’t expect to read the same thing I’ve already read, just from another perspective. I expected a good read. I mean, if Keni is as good of an author as he is a songwriter, I knew I was going to enjoy the book. I just didn’t expect to learn so much about myself in the process.
One of the U.S. Army Ranger veterans of “Black Hawk Down,” Keni tells his story a little differently than other accounts I’ve read. He is a devout Christian with a gift for interspersing his lessons during the battle from both a leader’s perspective and a religious one. But, the book doesn’t come across as preachy by any means.
As a matter of fact, Get It On! is a motivational book for every one of us, whether we’ve served or not.
One of Thomas’s early examples is Private David Floyd, the squad’s machine gunner. Keni describes him as a “bless your heart” kind of fellow. Meaning, you see him coming and the only polite response you can think of is “Oh man, bless your heart.” He was the lowest ranking man in the squad, but a valuable piece of the puzzle. Floyd begins his time in the Ranger Bat as a sort of screw up. But by the end of the book, Floyd proves to be the one piece of puzzle needed to get those men out of there safely.
So, while he uses these military examples of leadership at every level, Keni relates leadership traits that even main street would find useful. In fact, Keni often visits companies to give speeches on leadership, motivation, and responsibility. These aren’t military contractors, either. The lessons of Get It On! are applicable to anyone and everyone, as Keni states himself:
You might be a seventh grade teacher who uses the classroom to change a life. Maybe you volunteer your time to a passionate and worthy cause or a charitable program. And what if you are the office worker in your cubicle on the 60th floor of a big corporation giving your all to the task at hand?
Your presence matters. Those people on your left and to your right are directly affected by the result of your actions. Their success as a whole depends entirely on you because you are the one piece of the puzzle that makes everything come together. As a parent, volunteer, manager, consultant, teacher or a student, you have a job to do and a standard to uphold.
I can’t think of a more motivating book than this one to read. I thought I was going to read a book about the Battle of Mogadishu. Instead, I read a book that was deeply personal, chronically and putting into perspective many issues I’ve deal with for years. It would have been an honor to serve under the leadership of someone like Sergeant Keni Thomas. I wish the military had more leaders like him today. We would definitely be in a better place.
His principles are just as applicable to us here in the military as they are to those of you out there in the “real world.” If you read this book and walk away feeling like you haven’t learned something about yourself, you probably need to read it again. There is message for all of us. Only with Get It On! there is the added benefit of getting into the mind of a U.S. Army Ranger literally fighting for his life in what would have seemed like an impossible situation.
As someone that has been dealing with the issues of PTSD, the words I used to open this review spoke louder to me than anything else. As Keni would say, it was my personal “Shazam!” moment, along with something that a Vietnam Veteran told Keni as he was dealing with similar issues of guilt and worthlessness: “If any one of your friends could come back from the dead and talk to you today, do you really think they would tell you that you were supposed to feel guilty?”
READ THIS BOOK! You will laugh. You will cringe. Your heart will pound. And you will cry. But, through it all this book will make you a better person! You won’t be able to put it down and it will be passed from family member to family member and from friend to friend. But, I recommend you all get your own copy! (If you’re into country music, I also recommend checking out his music!)
Keni Thomas was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge from the United States Army and fought the “Black Hawk Down” battle in Mogadishu, Somalia. he has since become an award-winning country musician and is the spokesperson for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and the “Hero Fund.” Inspired by Isaiah 6:8 (“Here am I; send me”), Keni also speaks to students and adults around the country about leadership, encouraging them to “Train as you fight. Fight as you train.”