“Mission First and People Always!” was drilled into my head from the very early stages of my Army career. I was fortunate that my parents had instilled a high bar of values, and it was easy for me to adopt the 7 Army Values (LDRSHIP: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless-Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage).
I left the Army in June of 2002. I believed that the world would be wide and open to boundless opportunity. I landed with both feet with a Fortune 500 Company, and felt fortunate to work in a large scale rapid model of manufacturing and distribution. I learned what would be the building blocks for a career in logistics.
I missed the relationships I had in the Army. I missed the sense of accomplishment and purpose. In the summer of 2004, I found myself in the US Army Reserves. I had quantifiable goals that were driven by training and purpose because we were preparing for an eventual deployment.
My deployment notification came in December of 2005. I was selected as an Individual Augmentee for a Military Transition Team in central Mosul, Iraq. That deployment taught me that I could find the best and worst of humanity in any given moment. I learned that it was often simple gestures that would have the greatest impact. I used each opportunity as a learning experience and in the midst of a war, tried to find a meaningful and impactful way to see how I was contributing to making my home safe and trying to stabilize a country torn apart by war. I was once again, thrust into positions where I was connected to a greater purpose and I was able to establish the camaraderie I had missed. The year abroad shaped and molded me in ways I would not realize until after I had returned.
I returned to my previous employer in May of 2007, and was given the opportunity to move from bottling and distribution to healthcare and logistics. I loved it. I was not directly in the medical field, but I could see how my contribution was impacting patients every day. I made steady professional moves that allowed me to grow and widen my range of experience while still feeling like I was making an impact on a global scale.
I sat on the sidelines of the rare disease community for years. I felt helpless when a family friend and his wife started the daunting journey of discovering a diagnosis for their son, Noah. Noah lost his battle with Batten Disease in March of 2016. His younger sister, Laine, continues to hold on and fight each day. I thought I understood courage. What I learned was that people had attached that to me. I watched a family live courage day in and day out. There is no time limit or bounds in which they have lived their courage and resolve.
Why am I proud to be a bluebird? Quite simply we dare to dream big and swing for the fences. I’ll never fully understand the science of what we do. What I do understand is that we are working hard to break barriers for patients. Patients first is our rallying cry or as I would have said twenty years ago, Our Mission. The professional relationships I get to build at bluebird are not that different from what I had with the military. There is no saluting, “Sirs” or greeting of the day, but rather bird puns, which is “flocking awesome.” The leadership team here has created an environment that pushes our work daily, and an atmosphere where we can come together as a team and nurture our relationships. Now “Right Arm Night” is replaced by “flappy hour.” The travel destinations aren’t always as exotic or dangerous. I get to build and scale a team while mentoring and being personally invested in their growth. I may not be an Army of One, or even Army Strong anymore, but what I can tell you is that the values at bluebird allow me to “b colorful, b cooperative and b myself.” The values are packaged differently, but remain the same.
Here at bluebird, I was presented the opportunity to start and co-chair a Veterans Resource Network. I can continue to serve my fellow Veterans and patients and their families every single day. I’m fortunate that bluebird bio has given this Veteran another mission and purpose.