Gale Sayers: Witnessing Military Teamwork, Passion and Courage

BMR Staff

Gale Sayers was a football legend.  But beyond the accolades, accomplishments and highlight reels, he also leaves a legacy of humble service.  Here is a speech I wrote with Gale—an acceptance speech for an award he was given by Junior Achievement.  In typical Sayers style, Gale doesn’t talk about himself; he speaks of the military men and women he met on a 10-day/18-stop USO Tour and, specifically, the Teamwork, Passion and Courage he witnessed.


Thank you, Yusef for that wonderful introduction.

Why have we come here tonight?  Because every person in this room wants to support the growth and development of our young people.  And by supporting organizations like Junior Achievement we have the opportunity to make a tremendous difference in the lives of young people.

I am honored to be here tonight and I thank you for your continuing support of Junior Achievement.

As Yousef mentioned in his remarks, I had the privilege of joining the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on a 10-day, 18-stop USO tour where I visited with our troops in the field and in the hospitals.  As I embarked on the trip, I knew that my job was to encourage and entertain these young men and women so that their lives might be a little less difficult, at least for a few minutes.  I did not know that it would be them who would be the ones who would inspire and motivate me.  On each and every one of my stops, there were three things about our troops that left a profound impression on me: Their sense of teamwork, their passionate pursuit of their mission, and their personal courage in the face of adversity.

Tonight, I’d like to share with you a few observations about Teamwork, Passion and Courage.

I played on a team that you are all familiar with, The Chicago Bears.  I was the featured running back and received most of the attention.  But I’ll tell you what… I wouldn’t have gained a single yard in my entire career if I didn’t have teammates blocking for me.  Being on a team is all about responsibility.  It is all about trust.   And it is a privilege.  If you watched The Ryder Cup last month, you saw professional golfers who have always competed as individuals suddenly feel the pressure, the responsibility and the joy of being on a team. 

When I visited our troops in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and other hot spots around the world, teamwork was on display 24/7.  I would meet injured soldiers in military hospitals and what they talked most about was how they couldn’t wait to rejoin their team on the battlefield because they were all counting on them.

Growing up, sports was my true passion.  I attacked it with great enthusiasm and effort.  And I had success.  Today, I compete in the business world and I am just as passionate.  I am passionate about our company and the opportunity we have to add value to our customers, to offer meaningful career opportunities to our associates, and to contribute to welfare of the community by being socially responsible.  I am engaged and excited every day.

At the time that I visited our troops in Iraq, there were mixed feelings in our country (as there still is today) about whether we ought to be there.  I expected some of our soldiers might feel the same way.  But I never saw it once.  Never.  What I saw was the intense love they had for their country, and for each other.  What I saw was a remarkable and steadfast determination to accomplish their mission.  

Like each of you, I have had setbacks in my life—from knee injuries to business problems to the loss of loved ones.  And like each of you, I have found courage to deal with them through my faith and through the example of others, through role models.  Brian Piccolo was a courageous teammate of mine who you’ve probably heard of.  But you probably never heard of a young soldier I met at a military hospital during my trip in the Middle East, who had half of his head blown off.  The doctors were going to take a part of his hip and use it to reconstruct his head.  You would think this soldier would be bitter… feel depressed… victimized.  Not in the least.  All he wanted was to get patched up as soon as possible and rejoin his comrades in the field.  This young man is my role model.  Not a single day has passed since then that I have not thought about – and been inspired by—this courageous young man.

All of the soldiers I visited are role models.  They define teamwork.  They define passion and courage.  They define modern day heroism.  And they need our support.

Thank you.


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