The following letter was written on the battlefield in Afghanistan, July, 2010, after the district special ed director reduced the hours of paraprofessional support for RM at her YMCA summer camp… without prior notification, or grounds to do so…
Dear [Special Education Director],
My Name is [SGM]. I am the father of [RM] and a taxpayer in the Town of [StimCity]. I am currently deployed to Afghanistan as the Operations Sergeant Major for [an Infantry unit]. You may recognize the unit as [part of the battalion] is stationed in [StimCity] on Main Street and is one of my companies. Currently, there are 499 soldiers deployed here from Connecticut of which I am responsible for their care and well-being in an extremely hostile environment.
The key to my success in the past 24 years, 3 wars, 7 countries and an untold amount of soldiers is COMMUNICATION. General Patton once said, “keeping the foot soldier informed is incalculable.” This holds true in the civilian world and business world of which you, [Special Ed Director], and your co-workers are currently employed.
I find it hard to believe that anyone can actually get up in the morning and look themselves in the mirror and say, “I can’t wait to make someone angry today.” So, I am thinking that all of what I am being told is a huge breakdown in communication. If this is the case, we are failing not only our children, but ourselves. These children are our future – no matter how disabled. These children will grow up and become the Department of Education, Police Officers, Firefighters, and Accountants of our retirement accounts. I am thinking again, that we should do our best to help them in any way possible.
“Department of Education”… This makes me think that “educated” people work there. And being such an important department with what I can only imagine is a very large salary budget (above the 600K maybe?) I would assume that [StimCity] would hire qualified personnel. So, I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that all the people included in this email are educated and are qualified.
So this leads me to my question… Why am I having to write this letter from AFGHANISTAN to find out why a Town Worker that I assist in paying the salary for can’t seem to pull it together and communicate with families in a nice, civilized way? Why are grown adults having to resort to email and lawyers to discuss the programs that children in a town as large and prosperous as [StimCity] are entitled to?
Somewhere along the line, we have a communication failure. In my line of work this is quickly identified as ‘the dead pile up on the battlefield’. In this instance, the ‘dead’ would be the children and parents that have come to a dead-end with a department established to HELP find them solutions to their issues. We are failing.
Many people, who have little inside knowledge of how the military works except for what they see on television, do not understand the real way we communicate in the Army. I very seldom bark orders, yell, nor do I ever belittle, degrade, chastise or berate soldiers in daily duties or on the battlefield. I give CLEAR orders and GUIDANCE in a voice that establishes trust and understanding. I lead by example, and in return earn my soldiers’ undying trust, devotion and RESPECT. They will follow me anywhere as long as I COMMUNICATE to them what we are doing and why.
We call this ‘Task and Purpose’.
With that, we accomplish amazing things.
So, [Special Education Director and Staff], what is YOUR TASK AND PURPOSE?
If you cannot answer this question without looking at your job description then you are wrong. If you did look at your job description, you will not find the words ‘compassion’, ‘understanding’, ‘helpful’ and ‘committed to what is right’ – Reason: they are expected of everyone regardless of what we do for a living.
To help in this process I will be more than happy to sit and communicate with each and every one of you. I will be home shortly for 2 weeks, and in a few months I will return for a longer stay. I will be available morning, noon, and night to discuss my daughter and her education, the Department of Education, and even some of my experiences in better communication.
I welcome an open dialogue that will promote a FRIENDLY PROBLEM-SOLVING environment between parents and [StimCity Personnel]. Because if we fail this cause – at some point – enough people like [us parents] will get together, pool resources and communicate together to form a plan that removes roadblocks to success.
I look forward to working with all of you to come to an agreeable solution to what is really a very simple problem to fix.