Never Forget This

As we drove by the cemetery, Dad slowed down and looked in the car parked at the curb. “It’s him,” I heard him say as if he was speaking to himself. He took the next turn and went around the block. The car was still there. Dad slowly brought us to a stop directly behind this quiet sentry.

“Stay here. I’ll be right back,” and with those words, he slid out the door and walked to the passenger side door – leaning in the window. I was scared. My Dad never did anything like this. What would make him just stop and talk to this man?

It seemed an eternity before he returned to the car. As he started the engine, I looked at him – his face expressionless. We just sat there – engine humming – other traffic going by without a care – the wind blowing through the open windows. Finally, I had to break the silence, “Dad?”

As if startled, he looked at me. His hand slowly settling on my shoulder. “He’s a friend. His son was killed in Vietnam and buried in this cemetery a couple of days ago. At a time like this, a man just needs another man to listen – to hear him speak his heart – no words, no judgment, no explanation – just listen.”

He put the car in gear and checked for traffic as he guided us back on the road. As we picked up speed, he gave me a quick glance.

“Never forget this.”


Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.

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    • Thanks, Larry. I encourage you to read the associated article mentioned to Jonathan in the above comment if you have not read it before. It is a true life story.

  1. LEN, your Dad’s greatness is shown by his wise words and action. Listening with empathy is perhaps the most difficult thing we as human beings can do.
    In almost 50 years of service involved with humanitarian programs I have finally come to understand the full power of listening to those in pain and anguish, and emotional upheavals. Empathy is more than just feeling pity or sorrow for someone — it’s feeling it with them. It is powerful and meaningful and shows others we are there for them. Empathy communicates to the person hurting that he or she is not alone.

    This is what we ought to do when someone is in anguish – we respond to the plea of their heart by giving them your heart. When it comes to empathy, you and I can do the same — by choosing to limit our words and instead feel with the people who are hurting.

    Platitudes of almost all kinds are not helpful and can perhaps be extremely irritating to hear. Empathy is one of the most important skills we can practice in life.

    “Empathy is like giving someone a psychological hug.” – Lawrence J

    • Jonathan – Empathy – so important when we are trying to help someone facing the difficult times in their lives. Here is another article you many find worthy of reading: Empathy Brings Healing (you will have to look it up manually – tried to create a hyperlink but could not get it to work). Thanks for adding your wisdom to this discussion.