Chief Bill Halmich is one of my heroes. He has served in our amazing local volunteer fire department for decades and has provided leadership through his role as chief for many of those years.
I recently had the chance to meet with Chief Halmich at a local restaurant. He was having a quick bite before his next meeting, and I was enjoying a second cup of coffee in between this and that. We picked up right where we left off the last time we talked at least a year before.
We began discussing local and world events, which inevitably led us to a conversation about leadership. And then we shared a few memories from the '60s. Chief Halmich was a young soldier serving in Vietnam then. I was a completely clueless high school student drawn into the wartime drama through the news media, saying goodbye to friends who disappeared into a far-away jungle for what seemed like an eternity. And for my friend Eddie, it turned out to be so.
I have always appreciated Chief Halmich's war stories. I walk away with some amazing leadership lessons every single time — the kind of lessons one can only learn in combat. For some reason, I felt the need to fess up to being an old peacenik. Not so much the hippy kind, but the Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela non-violent activism kind. Chief didn't seem all that surprised to learn that little tidbit about me.
I wanted to thank him for making it possible for me to study peace, and he said that he was proud to have helped. Our conversation ended all too soon, but I was reminded that Chief Halmich and I have many things in common. And that, perhaps, we may share a passion for peace.
Mother Teresa suggested, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." Nelson Mandela put it this way: "Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace."