Retired Army Ranger shares leadership lessons during Veterans Day ceremony

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By Kristen Meriwether

Thunderous applause greeted area veterans as they entered the Liberty Hill Middle School gym on Nov. 11 for the annual Veterans Day ceremony.

The Symphonic Band kicked off the ceremony with a rousing rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” and the Varsity Treble Choir followed with a beautiful rendition of “Let Freedom Ring.”

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Casey Thomas, a U.S. Military Academy West Point graduate, gave the keynote speech. Thomas’ son is a senior at Liberty Hill High School and will follow in his father’s footsteps when he attends West Point in the fall.

Thomas, who graduated second in his class at the academy and went on to become an Army Ranger, focused his speech on leadership, overcoming adversity and humility. He reminded the students that leadership isn’t just a job title, but about caring for others and putting them first.

“You’ve got to care about your folks, and sometimes you’ve got to be humble. And you sure as heck have to be genuine. It’s not about you,” Thomas said. “I want you to know it is okay in the modern world to be kind to other people. It is okay to say, ‘how are you doing?’”

He told a story of a time where he exhibited poor leadership by having a one-way conversation with a middle manager under his charge. As expected, the conversation went poorly and Thomas found himself unable to sleep that night.

The next day he brought the subordinate back in and apologized. The two found common ground, located the root of the problem and worked towards a solution.

“A lot of people say you, as the boss, you don’t apologize to your subordinates,” Thomas said. “Wrong. Absolutely you do. Because it’s a matter of the heart. It’s about being genuine.”

Thomas wrapped up his speech by thanking everyone for taking the time to thank those who served, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“On this day, we take just a minute to say thank you to warriors,” Thomas said. “Veterans don’t like to talk about the stories. We just don’t. But we’re grateful to the youngsters in our Liberty Hill.”

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