On this Memorial Day I salute my brother, Colonel Tom Kunk. Tom served 33 years in the Army and spent much of his career in war zones, Bosnia, 3 deployments in Iraq and was wounded in his last deployment. Tom entered the Army as an enlisted man, a private, and then rose through the ranks of the Army, earning a college degree, a masters and ultimately his rank as Colonel. He represents to me all the things we write about on this Built To Lead Blog, fortitude, GRIT, mastering your craft, growth mindset and most of all, having a Strong Core and living your OPUS. My brother loved the Army, his country and the men and women he led and served with.
He saw far too many soldiers die, endured some very ugly moments in war and has many great memories and accomplishments serving 33 years in the Army, Throughout all of it, his partner of 33 years Kathleen was at his side supporting him, loving him and giving him the stability and support he needed when returning from each deployment, as well as supporting the wives and families of his unit, they were a real team for sure.
Colonel Tom finally retired from the Army a year ago and was ready to retire to Florida and enjoy life. After a year in Florida and realizing full retirement wasn’t for him, they decided to move back to Hawaii where they enjoyed the last two years of his Army career before retiring. He was offered a great job in Hawaii; old friends awaiting them and the laid back life style of Hawaii.
Little did he know he and Kathleen would now face a Battle that would rip their hearts out! Kathleen was diagnosed at the James Cancer Center with Small Cell Lung Cancer that had already ravaged her body and 37 days later die of Cancer. Yes, we have all said it’s just not fair, they both served their country with an uncommon commitment, they loved each other so much……Why? God has a plan for all of us and nobody understood that more than Tom and Kathleen. They each shared a strong faith as a couple which has continued to inspire all of us.
I have learned once again from my brother Tom, what is truly important in life when faced with adversity, grief, lack of hope and loneliness. The power of a Strong Faith in GOD, your Relationships, Family, Friends, the Soldiers you have served with and people you have never dreamed of coming into your life to offer healing and love. Tom models to all of us the importance of daily rituals and habits that offer the stability to navigate life; pouring yourself into others, daily exercise, staying close to loved ones, understanding being vulnerable and the importance of grieving for a loved one. Yes, he has some very lonely days for sure but through it all, he seems to uplift ALL of us with his love, faith and indomitable spirit and fortitude.
Thank you Colonel Tom for your 33 years of service and God Bless your partner of 33 years, Kathleen.