Well Done Tommy D, Our Hero

  • by , Featured Contributor, October 9, 2008
Earlier this week, I received a particularly heart-warming email. It began:


"Yesterday I completed the Army 10 miler - the exact race I was training for when I was shot two years ago in Sept. 2006.  My time was a little slower than it would have been two years ago - 1 hour and 54 minutes or about 11:24 minute miles - but I finished. My goal was 12 minute miles and to break 2 hours.  I achieved my goal!!"

The email was from my good friend Tom Deierlein, someone that I have written about a number of times in the past. Tom is a senior corporate development executive with Millward Brown (formerly COO of Dynamic Logic); and, as I have written in past columns, Tom is a West Point grad and former officer in the Airborne Rangers who was unexpectedly called up for duty in Iraq in 2006, in spite of having left the military in 1993. Tom did not resist the call-up as many did. He went to training camp, got back into shape, learned the systems and procedures and acronyms for the new Army and shipped out as a civil affairs officer in Sadr City in East Baghdad.

There, as Tom shared with many of us via monthly emails, he witnessed first-hand the squalid and destitute conditions that many were living in. He spent his days and nights helping build schools, health clinics, and water treatment facilities as well as personally soliciting and distributing humanitarian aid donations from back home. In these efforts, many, many folks in our industry pitched in and sent both money and dozens and dozens of boxes of clothes, vitamins, soccer balls and school supplies.

As we painfully remember, on Saturday, September 6, 2006, Tom was shot and seriously wounded by a sniper. The bullet, which entered his left hip, shattered both his pelvis and sacrum (the lower part of the spine). He spent eight months in the hospital - three and one-half of those months without being able to stand. After enduring a long physical therapy regime (which still continues today), Tom learned to walk again and returned to work last year, though still suffering chronic pain and significant permanent internal injuries.

Thus, Tom's note about completing the ten-mile run was extraordinary news. I, like many others, was surprised to hear that Tom was even considering the run, let alone expecting that he could actually finish it. Of course, I should have known better. Tom has always been setting and achieving goals that most would find impossible. Here, Tom was motivated by one of his noble passions, the TD Foundation [], which he created during his deployment to help the needy children in Iraq and Afghanistan (I am honored to serve on its board of directors). An excerpt from one of his recent emails will give you a sense of what Tom's foundation does:

We have helped save the lives of 11 children by providing them with life saving surgery out West.  This includes 6 heart surgeries, multiple burn victims, and one boy who lost his leg.  We work with a variety of organizations and our role is mainly to cover the travel and lodging costs, which average $8,000/child.

We shipped over $20,000 of medical supplies to help stock 3 new clinics in East Baghdad thanks to a college professor in Las Vegas.

We recently shipped $1,500 of children's vitamins courtesy of an 8th grade girl's fundraising efforts

Why am I writing about Tom today? Of course, I am proud of his accomplishments, and want to make sure that everyone else is aware of them. But, most importantly, when we are living in times like we are today, witnessing what may likely be one of the greater financial collapses of the past 50 years and worried about what will happen next, I believe that we need to hear stories like Tom's to keep things in perspective. As bad as things may seem, this world - and our industry - is full of wonderful people and wonderful stories and wonderful accomplishments. If Tom can make it through everything that he has and remain so focused on his noble goals, so too can we. I will finish with a final excerpt from his "10 miler" email:

Thanks to all of you we hit a more important goal - together everyone on this list raised over $20,000 for the children of Iraq and Afghanistan. AMAZING!!

I am VERY excited - and sincerely humbled by the contributions.  There were certainly times I felt like not running or training at all - but once I had people that sponsored me and believed in me (and the plight of the Iraqi and Afghan children) it made running at night, when my couch was calling, possible. I am going to be honest with you - yesterday was fun at times, it was exciting at times, but overall it was - in one word - brutal.  Those last three miles HURT.

When we think of getting through tough times, think of Tom.
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