How 911 Changed My Life and Career Path

By Don Purdum

chapel-fort-indiantown-gap.pngI will never forget, I was sitting in my Army BDU’s at Lancaster Bible College in the cafeteria. At the time, I was a Chaplain Candidate doing some training for counseling and psychology and the college had just built a really nice cafeteria where I liked to get away in the quiet and read or study.

I remember in the background hearing about a small plane that hit the World Trade Center on the radio that was softly on, and I didn’t really think about it much until I heard a large plane had hit the second tour.

I immediately had a gut feeling that something was seriously wrong. By the time I got home, my phone was ringing off the hook from my command at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA. They wanted me to stay put and prepare to come in the following day. So, the remainder of my day was spent at home watching the news just like everyone else.

Over the next few months, my life would be crazy. I worked full-time for a local ministry that was very demanding, while working through the schooling program to get ready to help military families prepare for what was coming. Pictured is the chapel I worked from regulary on the base. (picture credits: Pennsylvania National Guard photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

I spent a lot of my weekends working with the soldiers and their families. It was intense and divorce rates in the military are already very high compared to the general population. Many of these men and women were going to leave one person and come home another. How do you prepare someone for that? Until a spouse experiences it, there is no way to prepare. Complicating matters at that time, we didn’t have Skype or Google Hangouts so there was no real way for soldiers to communicate or share with their families. Unlike today where they get upwards of 1 hour of video time to talk, share, and dream together. The world of ten or eleven years ago was very different from today.

Ultimately, my training had a profound impact on what I do today with entrepreneurs and business owners; and their families. I am asked frequently what makes me qualified to inform, educate, and help these families?

After ten years of entrepreneurship, I’ve learned after experiencing the stresses of business what it can do to a family. We’ve experienced the highs and lows of business, had a bankruptcy, made lots of money, and then made no money. We know what it’s like to struggle, fight, kick, and claw our way out, struggle with the IRS, and yet grow our marriage deeper and more intimate over the years.

We’ve watched businesses close not because of the economy, cash flow, or tax problems; but because of divorce. An SBA representative told me in Dallas last spring that they know 40% of all business closures are directly attributed to divorce. That’s huge, and we have to find a way to solve that problem!

Nicole and I were made for each other, but we also know how to work at it by dreaming together and establishing goals. All things I learned in my experience as an Army Chaplain helping families deal with the affects of war and re-integration into a peaceful setting again, and our time failing and succeeding as entrepreneurs.

My heart still goes out those who sacrificed it all… the family that lost a husband and father; a family that got a very different husband or father back; a mom who suffers with PTSD and could not serve her kids they needed to be. Much has been lost.

911 changed my life forever, as it did millions of our military members and their families. I will never forget some of my brothers and sisters in arms who sacrificed it all so that we could have peace inside of our country, start, run, and grow our businesses; and yes choose to marry or even divorce.

I also will never forget the many business owners and coaches who friended me over the years and took me under their wings while I was sabotaging myself and my companies. They helped me see what I didn’t know and couldn’t see in my blind spots.

For me, 911 serves as a reminder that some can harm us or even devastate us for a short time. But together we can overcome it.

That’s true in our families as well. We have to get back to the basics in the business community. Let’s not forget or neglect our families while we are running our businesses. It’s not worth it. All the money in the world will never make you as satisfied and fulfilled as your family can.

While we remember those lost on this day, let’s also appreciate those we love that are around us. Though we never forget, we don’t live in the past, we live in the now.

This is a time to remember our priorities and what’s important to us as a nation, and as individuals. I hope today you will re-access your priorities and what is really important in life. This afternoon there could something that prevents you from ever seeing them again. If that were to happen, what would you do different? Instead of ignoring the thought that just came into your mind, start doing those things you would different now!!!


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