Photo of Marathon RunnersWhen I first started running at a young age, I always wanted to finish the race first. I found myself pushing to be first across the line or to be fast enough to sail over the highest rope of “build the castle” (a child’s game jumping over a rope). Even as I prepared for the US Army at age 17, I spent more time walking to recover from a short sprint than I did going for distance. After a few runs in the 82nd Airborne doing the “Airborne Shuffle”, I learned a new word…Endurance. I could run forever at the right pace.

While I’ve never won any awards for speed, I have walked coast-to-coast twice. Of course, that was in Panama, where that distance is the shortest; however, it is still something I like to brag about. I have been up and down endless hills and low crawled farther than my kids have ridden a bike. I went on to complete the Air Assault 12 miler at the 101st Division in boots and full gear… about 50 times. Oh, and if you know anything about FIST supporting light Infantry, you know I walked a million miles as well. Other than bragging now that I am older, my point is that I learned the turtle generally outlasts the rabbit.    

This knowledge has served me well throughout my career, and certainly now at VA. Everyone has an opinion about how to fix VA.  I regularly survey the Internet to see what is being said about my VA. I find an occasional useful article and share it on VA Careers facebook or my Linkedin page, but often I find opinions that are much like a 100-yard dash…short, quick and of little value. Except in clearing an urban area of course.

What I am constantly looking for are marathon runners. I am looking for health care providers that do not give up on Veterans. Those dedicated people who are not running to be first across the line or to gain attention for a fleeting moment. No one works at VA to get rich or to gain national attention. While that does result from time to time, it is not VA’s focus. Our focus is our Veterans. If it is not, that employee will not last at VA. That provider will and should move on. What lasts are the marathon runners. Those whose mission it is to make a difference in Veterans lives. I know who they are, our employees know who they are, and Veterans know who they are, because we see each other daily and they are easy to spot. The “sprinters” never last the distance.

The last group I am always looking for are coaches. A coach makes or breaks a team…period. Side line coaches and back seat drivers are sprinters. In the words of a great marathon runner, General Patton: We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.

That leaves me with you. Are you a marathon runner or a sprinter? VA needs marathon runners. At the top, in the medical centers, in the middle, as supporters and even as patients. The marathon runner will not only notice a discrepancy or area of improvement, but they will work day in and day out to fix it. Another great Patton quote is: There are three ways that men (people) get what they want; by planning, by working, and by praying. Nowhere in that statement is complaining and pointing fingers.

So- if you are a marathon runner, APPLY TODAY and make a difference.

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Published on Mar. 20, 2013

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