TEDxScottAFB inspires with stories of service to others

  • Published
  • By James L. Hodges
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
The auditorium was full, but the only noise from the audience was the muffled sound of choked-back tears. Everyone's complete attention was focused on the master sergeant onstage as she struggled reliving the day her teammate, her friend, her brother sacrificed his life for his country.

"I don't tell this story because I like it, I don't. I hate it. It was the worst thing to happen in my life," said Master Sgt. Jennifer Allara. "The worst things can happen in your life, but they're the worst things. To keep going is the main thing."

Allara, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron at Dover Air Force Base, Del., was one of 17 speakers May 30 at TEDxScottAFB. She and other guest speakers told of personal sacrifice and lessons learned while in service to others.

The audience in Global Reach Planning on Scott Air Force Base, Ill., numbered 100; but the event was viewed by over 450 people worldwide through the live streaming hosted by the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System.

"I was in the audience from home in Peru - the power of internet access," stated Ingrid D. Bernuy on the TEDxScottAFB Facebook page.

The event's theme was service to others, and speakers, from a variety of backgrounds, inspired, motivated and entertained.
"I'll admit I watch 'Survivor', and I always laugh at them when, on day 25, they break down at a letter from their family," said Army Lt. Col. David Preston. "Try that at day 360 and tell me what it's like." Preston, the special assistant to the commanding general of the 101st Ariborn Division, Fort Campbell, Ky., spoke of his time supporting the warfighter in austere conditions during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Jules Shell, co-founder of Foundation Rwanda, shared stories of hope from Rwanda - including the story of a young woman who lost her teeth to militias during the genocide. She said that when she got her smile back, all she wanted to do was smile at the man who did this to her.

"Their hope fuels who I am and what I do," said Shell.

"Proud and awed to have been a speaker in the company of such an outstanding and well spoken guest list," stated Victor C. Juhasz on the TEDxScottAFB Facebook page. The illustrator, a member of the U.S. Air Force Art Program, shared his experience drawing wounded servicemembers.

"Drawing takes times," said Juhasz during his talk, "and anyone who looks at a drawing is being drawn into it, no pun intended, and can be impacted by it."

The fifth chief master sergeant of the Air Force, Robert D. Gaylor, amused the audience as he shared his motto for life "People like hot french fries."

The chief described how he got his motto during a lunch trip in Laredo, Texas.

"There is no substitute for human interaction. There is no substitute for caring," said Gaylor.

William McNulty, a veteran and co-founder of Team Rubicon, a disaster response veteran service organization, challenged the audience to "trust your intuition, question authority, have the courage to do something."

Major Jake Thornburg, a C-17 pilot, started his talk by stating that the audience would not remember him, as he shared his perspective on an Honorable Return.

"The reason that I serve is because so many other do," said Thornburg, "and the sacrifices I make don't compare to the sacrifices made by others."

He finished his talk by reading the names of the 20 fallen servicemembers he flew home that day.

"It's a humbling experience to see a room full of people who don't want any credit. And yet every single one deserves so much credit, and even to the end nobody here wanted to be in the spotlight," said event emcee Simon Sinek. "In our modern society, spotlight is the measurement; and you have people here who stand in the shadows and smile with pride and gratitude; and to just be around these people, I'm a better person for it."

Sinek, whose book "Start with Why" is on the 2012 Chief of Staff Reading List, is no stranger to TEDx. His TEDx talk "How Great Leaders Inspire Action" was recorded in September 2010 at TEDxPugetSound.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading." At 18 minutes or less, TEDTalks are designed to stimulate dialogue between the thinkers and doers from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design. TEDx events share the same spirit but are planned and coordinated independently, giving communities the opportunity to stimulate the dialogue they need at their local level.

"All the speakers taught me something that day," stated audience member Steven Mankins on the TEDxScottAFB Facebook page. "... I hope that this spreads throughout the Air Force and that many other Airmen have the opportunity to experience and learn what I had the privilege of experiencing."

The speakers not only shared their stories with the audience but inspired each other.

"To be here today and listen to stories, to listen to people share about their friends, the people that were close to them who were right next to them that have given their lives for this country and ... knowing that it's a possibility as a part of this that that kind of sacrifice, and willingness to sacrifice it humbles me," said Marshall "Soulful" Jones a poet who performed at the event. "I really have no words, I'm talking a lot but I'm speechless.

"I want everyone in the any of the armed forces to know that my gratitude is beyond infinite, and hopefully you can feel that from here," said Jones. "Thank you."

The 2nd Combat Camera Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah filmed TEDxScottAFB for the live stream and will produce videos to be up loaded to the TEDx YouTube site and the TEDxScottAFB social media sites.

For more information about TEDxScottAFB and the speakers visit www.tedxscottafb.com, follow @TEDxScottAFB, and like TEDxScottAFB on Facebook.