San Antonio’s history is intrinsically linked to the military since the missions were first established more than 300 years ago. On May 4, the LSA 46 class had an immersive experience into the journey of military life, its challenges, and its contribution to the fabric of our nation and our communities. Military day’s mission was to build a stronger bridge between the military community and business/civic leaders in Military City USA by informing, educating, and sensitizing LSA members about the true experience of military life.

Military day offered LSA 46 class an opportunity to learn and explore the life journey of our military. From enlisting into service to transitioning to civilian life, overcoming mental health challenges, and continuing a life of leadership after service. The day started at the AT&T Center with a brief presentation about the day’s mission and an overview of the ties between LSA members, their families, and the military.

The first speaker was Juan “Lou” Lewis, aka “The Fired-Up Chief”, a 28-year veteran of the United States Air Force. Lewis spoke about the responsibility that comes with leadership and the importance of overcoming obstacles in life. “Life is chaotic,” the Chief said. “You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you choose to respond to what happens to you.” Next, Juan Ayala (Major General, USMC, Retired), Director of the Military and Veteran Affairs Department for the City of San Antonio, gave the class a summary of the history of the military in San Antonio. He reminded the class that Fort Sam was the first place that trained women to go into combat in the country, that the military is the number one employer in the city, and that more than 25,000 veterans are part of our community.

The next activity was a panel discussion about mental health and the challenges faced by members of the military and their families after service. The panelists included:

  • COL Joseph F Alderete, Jr. MD, Chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Brooke Army Medical Center;
  • Omar “Crispy” Avila, Liaison for Sons Of The Flag; and
  • Jill E. Palmer, Chief of Behavioral Health at Endeavors and Navy veteran.

The moderator, Dr. Alison Wiesenthal (LSA 43), Chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Brooke Army Medical Center, facilitated the dialogue and shed light on the realities that veterans and wounded warriors face during and after their time in uniform. “Lack of unity and family,” said COL Aldrete, “along with the lack of wholeness and unity of military life is the most difficult when rejoining civilian life. The reality is that veterans and service members must learn to manage multiple identities, both military and civilian and make sure they find purpose when they transition to civilian life.” The class learned mental health affects not only military members but also their families and that it is important to think of the military as part of our community; service members and veterans are not “they”, but “us.”

Next, LSA 46 traveled to JBSA-Lackland and had an opportunity to experience firsthand what recruits go through on the first day on the job. Seven drill sergeants welcomed the class with their characteristic energetic commands and escorted them into the Gateway Club on Lackland. Brian Hoffman, Vice Director of Joint Base San Antonio and LSA 46 class member, provided welcome remarks. Before introducing the keynote speaker, Mr. Hoffman gave a brief introduction to Lackland operations and its role at the national and local scale in both military and civilian affairs.

The keynote presentation was given by Angie Salinas (Major General, USMC Retired), CEO of Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, who shared with the class her trailblazing journey as a U.S. Marine. Her life story is a source of inspiration. Salinas talked about the power of belief in oneself and the responsibilities of leadership and emphasized that “all the successes in the world don’t matter if you don’t do good with it. We are role models whether we choose to be or not, and no one is going to hand you anything,” Salinas said. “You have to earn your way and believe you’re in this to make a change.”

After a morning of immersive experiences, mind-bending insights about military life, and inspiring leadership lessons, LSA 46 moved to the interactive part of the day. First, the class was presented with a Mission Brief about the C5M Super Galaxy, the Air Force’s largest aircraft. After boarding and exploring the ins and outs of the C5M, the class moved to an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Range to learn about the incredible work by the JBSA Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and yes – the class had the chance to blow some stuff up!

Finally, the LSA class returned to the AT&T center where they were presented with a military challenge coin by Leonard A. Patrick (Major General, USAF, Retired) former Vice Commander of Air Education and Training Command at JBSA-Randolph. Patrick closed Military Day by reminding the class of the importance of leadership and friendship. “It’s not about being the best or contributing more or winning in everything,” said Patrick. “It’s about the person to your left, right, front, and back. It’s about building lasting lifelong relationships throughout our lives.”

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