He was so engrossed in his book that he paid no attention to me as I approached.

“Excuse me, Sir,” I started, “from everything my mother told me, my guess is that you are John.”

He looked up and stared for what seemed like a long time. Slowly, he reached for his drink and took a sip – replacing the glass without making a noise. “You must be Etta’s boy. I heard you were coming to collect her things.”

I pulled a chair up and sat close to his wheelchair. “I am glad I ran into you. My mom loved hearing your stories. Each day when I called her, she would talk about how amazing your life was and how she admired you. She could never remember your stories and toward the end, she couldn’t remember your name – but your visits were so important to her. Thank you for being so kind to her and giving her joy.”

He smiled and we talked about their first encounter on the day I checked her into the care facility, how she always wanted to hear his tales of life in the Navy, and how toward the end he stopped by her room just so she wasn’t alone. He also told me that my daily calls always lifted her spirits – easing my guilt since I had to handle her care long distance. Finally, the nurse came in to let John know lunch was ready. I asked if I could do anything to thank him and he waved his hand to say no. I shook his hand and turned to leave.

His voice suddenly caught my ear, “Nice meeting you, Jarhead.” I smiled to myself thinking ‘once a sailor, always a sailor.’


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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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Larry Tyler

Len What a great story. Thank you for Sharing this with us.