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Opening our Eyes to the Triumph of Hope over Despair
on September 17, 2010
I wish that my schedule had allowed me to be in Pasco, Washington tomorrow for the formal launch of "Hope Unseen - The Story of the U.S. Army's First Blind Active-Duty Officer."
I first learned about Scotty Smiley and his remarkable story when our mutual friend, Dr. Scott Snook of Harvard Business School, shared Scotty's story as part of Dr. Snook's presentation at the initial White Rhino Intersection event. I was so moved by the story, that I invited Scotty, his wife Tiffany, and his co-author, Doug Crandall, to speak at the follow-up event, Intersection 2.0. Their collective sharing of leadership lessons learned through their struggles were deeply inspiring to the attendees
I have read "Hope Unseen" and am already passing along copies to family members and friends. With the help of Doug Crandall, Captain Scotty Smiley pulls no punches in describing the highs and lows of the road that he and Tiffany have traveled since an IED explosion in Iraq robbed him of his eyes and his dreams of a future as a warrior. His strong faith was shaken to its core as he came to grips with the physical insult that had been dealt him, and the uncertain prospects for his future abilities to care for himself and his family.
One of the most poignant moments for me in reading this book came when I read the caption to the last photo in the book of Scotty and Tiffany and their two children. "People tell me that my children are beautiful. Unfortunately, I just can't picture them - but I am thankful for all the life God has blessed me with." For me, that statement sums up the value of this book and its lessons. It is a compelling compilation of stories of success, followed by disaster, failure, frustration, setbacks, revised plans, faith shaken and rebuilt, family and friends standing in the gap, and resurgence of hope over despair.
The Smiley story includes vignettes from Scotty's time at West Point as a cadet, Ranger training, deployment to Iraq, multiple hospitalizations and rehab, blindly climbing Mount Rainier, surfing in Hawaii, standing before a company of soldiers as their sightless commanding officer, teaching cadets at the United States Military Academy, and inspiring the U.S. Olympic Basketball team before the Beijing Olympics.
Scotty Smiley has been named the Army's Soldier of the Year. His story continues to inspire - soldier and civilian, sighted and blind. My friend, Major General (Retired) Gale Pollock, is former acting Surgeon General of the Army. I have heard her recount an interaction she had with a solider at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. the soldier, in despair over his blindness, was not responding to treatment or attempts at rehabilitation. In an attempt to light a fire under this soldier, General Pollock used tough love. At the end of her harangue, she told the young soldier; "I am going to have Scotty Smiley stop by and see you and let you know what things are possible for you."
Scotty and Tiffany and their cadre of family and friends show all of us what is possible in the wake of tragedy and disappointment. Scotty's faith sustains him, but it is not a blind faith. It is a faith that as been tested in the crucible of suffering and doubt and discouragement, and has emerged refined and strengthened.
I am thankful that my blind friend, Scotty Smiley, has teamed up with my friend, Doug Crandall to tell a story that helps us to all see life more clearly and in sharper focus.
The book is now available for purchase. It will be one of the best investments you can make for yourself and for those on whom you choose to bestow this book as a precious gift.