This past weekend in the U.S. we celebrated Memorial Day, a day when we honor those who have lost their lives in military service for our country. It's also a time when we reflect on the sacrifices made by all those who've served. Fortunately, this past Memorial Day also marked the welcoming back of one of the top leaders in our industry -- Tom Deierlein, the COO of Dynamic Logic, about whom I have written a number of times. Tom was called up for duty almost two years ago, put his career on hold, was stationed in Sadr City in Baghdad to support civil affairs activities, was seriously wounded by a sniper and spent many months recovering and rehabbing at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital and the Tampa Veterans' Administration Rehabilitation Facility. The great news is that Tom is healed and now back in New York; next week he starts work again at Dynamic Logic. Here are excerpts from Tom's final "Update" letter, which he sent around at the end of last month:
This is my last update letter. I am leaving the Tampa, Va. facility tomorrow and heading back to NYC. I am stopping by FortBragg to welcome my buddies back, as they arrived home this past Tuesday. It has been a long, strange journey and yet now I face my hardest challenge of all in the past year and half -- finding a decent affordable apt in New York!! ... I start back at work on Monday, June 4. Prior to that I will be getting settled in, spending time with friends and family, conducting my follow-up medical appts and starting rehab.... oh yeah, and sneaking down to Club Med for a week of fun in the Caribbean sun.
I arrived here in Tampa on Feb 1 in a wheelchair. I am leaving three months later on my own two feet without a cane. I still move slowly, have trouble with my balance at times, have a noticeable limp and some pain when I sit for an extended period of time. But I will continue my rehab at least one hour everyday at the VA in NYC on 23rd and 1st. They claim to have a poly-trauma rehab team and a gym with state-of-the-art equipment, so I will start there and see how it goes. I am also exploring private care options just in case. I am officially medically retired from the military on May 31, 2007 - 18 years and 7 days after graduating West Point. This time it is permanent.
Although I am far from back to normal, I can get around fine and even did a 20-yard dash in 5.99 seconds. Not exactly ready for the NFL Combine, but definitely better than last fall. I went to the golf range last weekend just to see what would happen -- I only managed to get three balls into the air. Those that have played with me in the past will know that is probably not injury-based. Along with an actual round of golf, my next big goal is to actually run. The deficiencies in my left foot and leg prevent that right now, but hopefully by year's end I will manage a trot.
I also threw out the first pitch at a Yankees game. My two goals were to not fall down off the mound and get it over the plate. I did not fall over, but the pitch was high and outside. I kept telling everyone that the guy gave me the "pitch out" sign. Joe Torre has invited me to be his special guest at a Yankee game of my choice this summer.
I am lucky to be alive with a second chance at life and blessed to have gotten some of the best medical care available anywhere in the world. Yes, there were issues at Walter Reed and here in Tampa, but they were paperwork- and bureaucracy-based, not medical-care-based. All the doctors, nurses, technicians, and therapists I have had the pleasure to deal with were true professionals and compassionate, caring individuals. My rapid recovery is my proof. I still owe some anonymous doctor in Baghdad last September a debt of gratitude. I learned only recently that apparently as I nearly bled to death (they gave me over 8 pints of blood) he administered a new drug called Factor 7. Thank goodness that is all behind me now. On the brighter side, during Tom 2.0 I will no longer take my health or fitness for granted and may in the end lead a longer more healthier life by staying focused on eating well and staying physically active.
Many, many people sent me letters, notes, email and gifts. Tons of folks dropped by for visits over the past seven months. I cannot thank everyone in this note, but rest assured they were a CRITICAL part of the healing process. I am fortunate to have friends and family like you.
One of Tom's missions in Iraq was to help children affected in war-torn East Baghdad with basic life needs from shoes and clothes to school supplies and vitamins. It is a mission that he did not leave behind. After Tom was shot in September of 2006, three of our colleagues, Sean Finnegan of OMD, Bill Flatley of Forbes.com, and Paul Bremer of IBS, helped him start a foundation and launched the first of many fundraisers to continue to help these innocent children with basic life needs and also by providing critical medical care. The TD Foundationis up and running and got an enormous boost last week as Rick Parkhill of iMedia joined the effort and spearheaded a fundraising drive at the company's Agency Summit that raised $80,000 for the TD Foundation. If you are interested in learning more about Tom's cause and perhaps making a donation, please visit the Web site, or you can send a donation (check) directly to "Tom Deierlein Foundation" at: 240 East 27th St , Suite #27F, New York, NY10016.
Welcome back, Tom! We've missed you.