U.S. veterans: silent heroes among Rutgers Executive MBA program

Rutgers EMBA is proud to have helped many U.S. veterans take the next leap in their careers

Rutgers EMBA Stories: Welcome to the Powerhouse

By Farrokh Langdana, PhD, Director, Rutgers EMBA

Happy Veteran's Day. An EMBA story from Iraq, in Beijing

November 11, 2016 – So here I was at the EMBA Welcome Dinner in Beijing, during our customary Peking Duck night [learn more about Rutgers EMBA’s China Experience]. I was at a table with about eight students, and the Lazy Susan was being kept busy with an unending array of Chinese delicacies.  As we poked about with our chopsticks, I noticed that our EMBA student, Jaimie Lopez, was wearing a Tag Heuer watch.  So, being a "watch guy", I asked him if it was real or “the Chinese version.”

Jamie mumbled (barely audibly) “real.”  I then persisted, in my typically annoying fashion:  “Gift? From the wife?”  That watch is expensive – it could be in the $7-9,000 range.

He simply said “no” while trying to spear a rouge piece of tofu with his chopstick.  So I tried again, determined to get to the bottom of this, “Gift from family?”

He replied, almost inaudibly, “A gift from my commanding general while in Iraq.”

All the chopsticks came down.  The table went silent.  Here is the story:

Jamie's commanding officer's son and his buddy are lost on a reconnaissance mission – one wrong turn, then another, and then, you guessed it, they find themselves in the worst possible part of Iraq!  They are lost in Fallujah.  Before they know it, the enemies are swarming the Humvee. They frantically race into a building, locking doors behind them, and make it to the terrace and call for help.

Jamie and his platoon deploy within minutes. The CH-47 Chinooks thunder to the building, a storm of dust in their wake. Using FRIES (Fast Rope Insertion Extraction Systems), Jaimie and his team slip down from their guide-ropes from the helicopters and land on the roof as the insurgents now pound up the stairs and swarm the building.  It is looking like Black Hawk Down all over again.  Jamie deploys his snipers and they “clear the streets.”  

I exclaimed foolishly, “you mean you gunned them down?” Jamie looked at me for a second and said, “No Farrokh--we just used foul language.  What do you think?!”

In any event, Jaimie rescues the two stranded soldiers, and is the last to be lifted out, literally seconds before their rooftop sanctuary falls to the enemy.

His grateful Commanding Officer then asked Jamie what he would like as a gift for saving the life of his son – and he insisted that Jamie ask for a real gift. Hence the Tag Heuer watch.

The silence around the table was deafening.  The Lazy Susan had been immobile for minutes as we sat there transfixed, the food left untouched. Even Jaimie's own study group had no idea! We were all thunderstruck. 

But here is the clincher. I had to pry--pry--the story out of this shy, reluctant, and shockingly modest hero. 

For this is the stuff real heroes are made of. 

To all our EMBA Veterans, to our "MiniMBA for Veterans" students, to all veterans in general, and to the memories of our Ivan Brick’s dad (Omaha Beach, D-Day) and my wife Mary's dad (Navy, Pacific War, Guadalcanal), and our Joe Schaffer’s family (Battle of the Bulge), and our Andy Gogates mom (nurse in the Desert War against Rommel), and to all the others, we in EMBA thank you and salute you and your memory.  Happy Veterans Day.

23 Jun
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