I think up front I need to thank and acknowledge ALL the individuals in my life that have shaped me to be who I am today. Those are the family, friends, coaches, and leaders throughout my childhood and my time in the military. Every one of these people, whether they know it or not, helped shape and define the intricacies of my growth as a man.
Obviously, first I need to give the glory to God. I think most people who knew me when I was younger still can’t believe the transformation God made in my life. It’s amazing to see the path defined and the pieces connected that brought me to where I am today. I am truly blessed.
To my mom, Leanne. You were given what some would deem an almost impossible task of raising two boys and two girls on your own once dad died. I’ve always said that your purpose on earth, given by God, was to be charged to raise the youth within your bubble of influence. Not only did you raise us four, but the immeasurable number of kids within this community that you’ve had interaction with. All of our friends and the children you mentor and love on in school have felt the impact of your motherly love and you can’t be thanked enough. I love you.
To Mammaw, Pappaw, and Vicki. You three together shaped what a perfect childhood should look like outside of an immediate family. At 33 years old, I still smile and reflect on all the trips to Noah’s Ark Animal Farm, the Apple Festival, King’s Island, all the home and away high school football game trips we made to watch the Ironman, the countless times I called to get a ride ANYWHERE in town, ya’ll were available for that. Every New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Trick or Treat, Thanksgiving, and Christmas that always built up an enormous feeling of excitement because I knew y’all would go “all out” for us kids. Thank you and love you all.
To the Humphreys family. My gosh, I wish I knew elaborate words to describe the impact your family made not only on me as an individual but to my ENTIRE family. The phrase “was like a second family” isn’t enough. You are family. From being my coach in football to hosting those WWF wrestling parties as kids. You allowed me to stay at your house weeks at a time, disciplining me when needed. Most importantly, being an additional rock for me when dad died. Your family, like mom, has not only affected me but our entire town. You all are a blessing to everyone you encounter and I’m truly thankful for each and every one of you.
To my high school football coaches, Coach Layton, Wolford, Taylor, and Morgan. You were another layer of mentorship I needed during my rowdy days, as some would call it. I made a lot of dumb decisions that you showed sternness toward, the disappointment tactic that always worked, and also empowered me to be better than what I was doing. You were a part of the best times in my life as a high schooler, playing high school football. My kids now get the privilege of me getting to be my own version of Al Bundy’s “four touchdowns in one game.” The only difference is they get the “game winning touchdown catch at Withrow” speech.
To my first leader in the military that gave me my foundational military frame, SSG Ryan Richmond. You understood the basics of leading and saw the potential to work with me as a young Soldier and to groom me to be a leader in the military. How you worked with me and taught me as a young Soldier in Germany and Iraq fostered the same things I did for my Soldiers when I became an NCO. Even though you are no longer serving, your guidance and mentorship still bleeds throughout the military as I have passed on the same principles. Thank you.
To the most interesting one in my military career and the one I have to be careful because I could write for days on, Christopher Janis. Where to begin? The plan’s to keep it simple and to the point because I know you’ll be a regular contributor to this blog and I’m sure everyone will see your character and wisdom through your posts. And if you didn’t plan on that, I just put you on the spot and you now have to do it.
Thank you for being what I needed to be observing as I was a young NCO at Fort Campbell: a man, warrior, and the combat leader. We didn’t call you Captain America for nothing. You took what SSG Richmond did as the foundation and you constructed the frame and all the necessary parts to construct the house. I picked your brain as much as I could because I knew if I could emulate you, I’d be a better man for it. We had some wild times at Fort Campbell and it’s funny seeing how we know how the rest of the story plays out.
Thank you for following God’s pull while we were at Fort Polk together. Without you once again leading in a way you never thought you’d be leading, it’s hard telling what my life would be like now. I asked myself “If God can change a man like this, what great things could he do for me and my life?” For the sake of not going into my testimony, thank you for your leadership, mentorship, and most importantly your friendship. So thankful to get to be a part of the Janis family and hope God blesses you all for a long time.
To the most awesome husband and wife duo I know, Robert and Sheyenne Dukes. As a twenty something year old father and husband looking for answers on life while stationed in Louisiana, God sent Chris and then you into my life. I’m sure I’ll tell the story in the future, but this story starts with a knock on the door and a bag of cookies. Robert, who would’ve thought that five second interaction we had one Saturday in February would’ve produced the friendship and spiritual leadership that we have today? Thank you for being the example of a mature man AND a man of God for me to try and mirror. You have been instrumental in my development as a man and like I have mentioned prior to this of individuals affecting our community, thank you for affecting God’s kingdom. Our family loves you guys and can’t wait to visit each other soon.
To Chuck, Debbie, and Holli, thank you for being the best in-laws I could ask for. Who would’ve thought all those years in high school as a young and dumb kid would’ve produced a marriage of 14 years, four grandchildren and four nieces and nephews? Such great memories and even though we all went through hard times, we stuck together as a family and overcame. You allowed me to not have the distraction of a “dysfunctional” family (even though I’m sure we’d question that haha) and could focus on other things in life. Thanks for being the best and most importantly thank you for giving the best part of my life, your daughter/sister and my wife Cassidy.
And lastly, to my wife Cassidy. I’m not going to be able to do this justice. I can’t imagine a more perfect and complete story as what we have went through since we started dating back in 2001. Knowing what would happen to our family in 2012 at Fort Polk, God started cultivating his plan back in October of 2001. You were my earthly savior that showed the ultimate patience, love, and optimism in our relationship while I lived in my “rowdy Randy” days. I don’t show or say it enough, but thank you for loving me and saving me. As I watch you parent our kids and tackling the difficult task of homeschooling three kids, you are absolutely knocking it out of the park. With the chaos of the military moving us around often and taking me away at times, you provide normalcy and memories like I had as a child that they will be grateful for years down the road. I love you so much and you are the luckiest girl in the world to find someone like me lol.
I know I have missed some and I’m sorry. Just know that God has used everyone perfectly in my life and other’s life. 1 Corinthians 3:6 says “I (Paul) planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” Everyone had a step in the growth of myself and of course others. I think a simple point and common factor with everyone mentioned above is this. Everyone was “there.” Everyone “made themselves available.” They all fostered an environment where I knew they were there when I needed them and I knew I had love and support.
If you are in charge of another human’s life, whether it’s your child, friends of people with a child, subordinates in a job, or just people in general, don’t forsake or dismiss the power of just being there and being available. This takes a little of putting yourself out there and letting it be known and establishing that environment. But a lot of what developed me as man and leader today were the ones that established themselves as a person of great character, morals and values. I was just able to observe their actions and demeanor and I knew I had them in my back pocket to pick their brain for their wisdom and insight.
Psalms 46:10 tells us “Be still, and know that I am God.” Not that anyone can be on God’s level obviously, but if we can strive to establish relationships with others as leaders that others feel comfort and confidence that they can be still and calm because they know we are there for them, that’s some of the easiest leadership principles we can start with. Always self check your character, values and morals. Once you damage those, it’s extremely difficult to repair those that you’ve hurt.
I challenge everyone to take a look within and ask yourself if you are that leader that makes yourself available? Have you fostered an environment that allows others to seek your wisdom and insight? Whether your bubble of influence is large or small, your bubble is the most important thing for the ones that are inside it. If you have people inside that bubble, they should be one of the most important things in your life.
“An Army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an Army of lions led by a deer.”
-Chabrias 410-375 B.C.