I recently received this beautiful entry in response to our invitation to you to share your story of Why Your Work Matters. It’s an honor for me to share Rick Stockburger’s story with you.
If you want to share your own story of Why Your Work Matters, just send me an email. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
It was February of 2010, there was a smattering of snow on the ground and I was in an Afghan airport
after 8 months of a combat tour. Everyone always wonders “did you see combat?” so I’ll get that out
of the way. The answer is yes and more than anyone should ever care to but that’s not why this work
We made it to Germany with plenty of stories that are for another time, and another place but what
happened to me when I left Rammstein Air Force Base to step foot on American soil for the first time
in 8 months changed my life forever. Service can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different
people but it only means one thing to me.
While waiting for the stewardess to go through the usual safety brief, I spotted a New York Times and
in particular an article that was talking about a small boy in Detroit who had his foot amputated due
to exposure. The boy was homeless, abandoned and afraid, just like many of the children that I had
met on patrol in Afghanistan. But America isn’t Afghanistan, right? I’ve dug wells for running water in
Kosovo, and delivered incubators for hospitals in Afghanistan and helped build schools in both countries
but they are considered third world countries compared to the United States. Poverty like this can’t be
real in America, right?
As this is stewing in my mind, and I’m about to boil over and start screaming at the top of my lungs
about this poor boy, the stewardess finally begins her safety brief. It gives me something to focus on
and for this I am grateful. She starts speaking about how to, in case of an emergency, “put your oxygen
mask on first, and only THEN to help your neighbor”. My mind began to race and this wonderful woman
had no idea what kind of impact she had just had on me.
I have to do what I can to help here. In my Rust Belt. In my cities. It’s as if someone turned the no
smoking sign on and the haze had cleared. My purpose was to fight wars, but not the wars overseas.
There are real people right here, at home, that are hurting. These people are clamoring for help.
I was pondering re-enlistment before I got on that flight. I had dedicated 7 years of my life to the Army
with only 13 years left till retirement but after that flight there was no turning back. I didn’t know
what I was going to do but I knew that I had to do something.
Saving Cities was formed a few months later, built on a foundation that people were going to be
the catalyst for social and economic change. I have since moved on to Escalys, which consults for
government organizations. Escalys aims to engage employees in a learning process within these
organizations to provide a better, more efficient product for the people they serve. I love every minute
of the work I do.
Service is simply in right-action and is why this work matters to me. Service is about having the courage
to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves. To dedicate yourself to a life of service can mean
many things. I have been the Soldier, the Bartender, and the Urban Revivalist. What truly matters is
that service is in our minds and our hearts, and what we decide to do with our lives every day will
either make us good people, or not.
Vice President of Collaboration, Escalys
Co-Founder, Saving Cities