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Interview with Gregory Gadson [12/1/2016]

Daryl Williams:

My name is Daryl Williams, and I am with DAJDPR. I have the privilege and honor of sharing the veterans story of Colonel Greg Gadson of the United States Army. He was a stand out linebacker at West Point Military Academy and an Honorary Captain of the New York Giants with two Super Bowl rings, and today is December 1, 2016. We are sharing and recording this story in the Library of Congress building, in our nation's capital of Washington D.C. Colonel Gadon, let's get started. Take us to the beginning, where were you born?

Gregory Gadson:

I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, February 19, 1966.

Daryl Williams:

Okay, and who were your parents and what were their occupations?

Gregory Gadson:

My father was Willy James Gadson, was a pharmacist and graduate of Howard University here in Washington D.C. My mother, Diane Stanfield Gadson, a graduate of Howard University as well and she was a school teacher.

Daryl Williams:

Alright. So, a little bit about you, what were you doing before your military service?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, ironically as we're here in the nation's capital, I'd say the first place I lived as a child was here in D.C. I was actually born before my--while my parents were still in college. I don't have any memories of that, but I think it's most relevant really because my parents moved quite a bit while I was younger as they were going out for different opportunities, and so finally we settled in Tidewater, Virginia when I was about nine or ten years old, and that's where I call home, Chesapeake, Virginia. I was a--I consider myself a jock, an athlete. I played football and wrestling as well, but I like to think that I worked hard in a lot of things, and didn't have the best grades, but I had decent grades. For the last three years of high school I delivered over 300 newspapers every morning, so I could help support my lifestyle. My father encouraged hard work, and I also worked in a lumber yard when I had on the weekends and when I had time off during the week when I wasn't involved in a sport. So, you know I like to say I was grounded in hard work, and so I hoped to earn a football scholarship, in a way that didn't work out, I wasn't awarded a football scholarship to a civilian college, but a recruiter from West Point came and I took my last official visit that I had to West Point as a recruit, and decided that this was my best opportunity and decided to go to West Point.

Daryl Williams:

Good. So, that hard work, how much of that hard work that was instilled by your father, translated into West Point and the football field and the military?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, I really considered the basis of really achieving. I often found myself behind the power curve whether to my own fault, or sometimes due to circumstances out of my control. Nevertheless, there's always this kind of decision point that we come to as people and we have to decide kind of dig in, and fight, and work, and just kind of believe in yourself and keep working through something, or not to, and I really have to give my parents a great bit of credit for instilling in that in me, because I've always been a kind of a hard worker, always been kind of a fighter, and to me I like to say even fighter, that's how it translated to me, the spirit of never giving up and never quitting.

Daryl Williams:

So, what drove you to actually enlist into the military?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, so when you accept, or when you're appointed and accept an appointment to the United States Military Academy, or any Service Academy, you incur a five year service obligation, so the fact that I decided to go there obligated me, if I completed to serving in the military for five years upon graduation, but the reason I went there, honestly not out of some noble service to serve in my nation, or even the prestige of West Point, because I'm not even sure I truly appreciated it when I was 18 years old. It was for one reason and one reason only, and that was to prove that I could play Division I Football, that I could compete in college football at the highest level. That was my greatest motivation for going to the United States Military Academy.

Daryl Williams:

Okay. Did you get that opportunity?

Gregory Gadson:

I did, and I was fortunate to play for head coach Jim Young, and the great staff that he had there, and to play with you know a wonderful group of guys. To this day they're lifelong friends. My business partner Kurt Guttierez, my best friend Chuck Scretzman, Troy Langley, Mike Sullivan, the names go on. That forged hardship that we went through and the common sacrifice, especially as athletes, especially as football players, that we went through has formed a lifelong bond.

Daryl Williams:

Were you fortunate enough to serve with any of those guys from West Point. Were you able to serve with them also?

Gregory Gadson:

I did, and maybe more so in an indirect way, but one of my teammates, he was the class of 1990, a Colonel Retired Will Huff. I literally was working with his organization, the Asymmetrical Warfare Group was working with my Battalion in Iraq, 2nd Battalion 32nd Field Artillery, during the surge. They were a special group that tried to assist organizations in seeing themselves and literally we even spent a night in my joint security station in downtown Baghdad. Two days later I was wounded. What I'm really proud of, I don't really remember this, but Will, now I'll get emotional about this, but Will found out that I was wounded and he was able to fly with my all the way from Baghdad to Landstuhl, Germany. You know, it's just that kind of love those kind of bonds that are there, you can't write a script, there's no precedence for something like that, and that's what the brotherhood is about.

Daryl Williams:

You speak so highly of your classmates, teammates, service members, are there any instructors that stand out in--from West Point or even Officers that stand out?

Gregory Gadson:

Yes, I can--Four Star General Chuck Jacoby, or Charles Jacoby. I remember as a cadet I got to work for him as a Battalion Commander. Lieutenant General Retired Rhett Hernandez, I was a Garrison Commander while he was on my post when he was the Commander of our cyber--and so, those are just two of many examples of where our service crossed paths. General Valcourt, Lieutenant General Retired Valcourt was my swim instructor for in the Department of Physical Education at West Point, it's interesting how our paths crossed again.

Daryl Williams:

So now, for those of us that didn't go to West Point, I understand you had the five years' worth of service that commitment that you made, did you have to choose a particular branch, and if not, what led to you choosing the branch that you chose?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, for the United States Military Academy, our default branch is the Army, so you go into the Army. You can apply to go into another by exception but those numbers are very small, it's a primary commissioning source for the Army.

Daryl Williams:

So, after--when you went into full military, how did you adapt to the true military life? Now I understand when you're in--. {Laughs}

Gregory Gadson:

Right {Laughs}, yea it's much different from the Army, yea. You know in all fairness you know the United States Military Academy, it's a college, and there's a college experience. So, it's vastly different from most colleges, but it is also not the Army, so that's a fair assessment. For me, and what I share now looking back, particularly to those that are going into the Army, is really having a sense of humility. A sense of humility because of the responsibility that you have. You're going to be a Platoon Leader, you're going to be a leader of men that you know from the Private on up, probably have more military experience in a unit that you do, yet you're responsible for leading them. And, that's the fine line that you kind of walk as you develop as a leader, because you know if you don't approach it with the right response, if you don't approach it with the right style, and all the things that go into leadership then you're not going to enjoy it and you may not ultimately be successful. And so, leading is not always telling somebody what to do, in fact it's really rarely telling someone what to do, it's really about you know understanding what the standards are and inspiring and leading and making sure that people live up to those standards.

Daryl Williams:

So, when you leave college and go full military, do you come in-- at what rank do you come in?

Gregory Gadson:

You get commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.

Daryl Williams:

So, already prepared, ready to lead?

Gregory Gadson:

Ready to lead {Nods head}. So, you do have, when you graduate, you do have what they call a basic course, where you go into a particular branch in the Army, so in my case I was commissioned as a Field Artillery Lieutenant, and so I spent my first six months in the Army going to school, learning the specifics of my trade as an artilleryman.

Daryl Williams:

Okay. That actually leads to where I was going, so give us just a brief summary if you will of what your first, so after you graduate college, now you're given the Sergeant, give us a brief of what that life changed on day one for the first six months, but if you did school that first six months, give us that first 12 months. So, give us that time right after the 12 months.

Gregory Gadson:

So, school is again kind of a, I don't want to say it's not the Army, but it's not what the Army is designed for, it's part of, it's the educational basis that supports the Army as a profession, but it's not the purpose of the Army. The purpose of the Army are the units that supports the defense of our nation, and so that's what the basic course gave us the technical tools to go out and do our profession. So, six months after you graduate from college, you complete that course, and then you go sign into your unit. That's the, I sometimes try to think back of what that first day was like, and I wish I could remember with more accuracy but you know, it's like you're going to college for the first time, and you're going into an organization, and you're the new guy, the F.N.G. You know, part of you know that you're going to be tested, people are going to challenge you, not in a physical way but just to see what you're made out of and how you're going to act, everybody is observing you. You know, you go to an organization and you're one set of eyes and if you're lucky to be a Platoon Leader, you got 40 to 50 people that's under your command, but guess what all those eyes are on you, and everybody is watching your every move. Waiting for you to fail, waiting for you to trip, waiting for you to do something that's dumb, if you will. It's a--but it's a walk that every Lieutenant makes, and that's the part of the growth and you got to figure that out, you got to figure out how to fit in and how to eventually earn the respect of those men, it's not the respect they give you, but the respect that you earn, so that you can do what you need to do.

Daryl Williams:

Okay. So, now as your first command, where was that? Where did you initially first begin serving?

Gregory Gadson:

Fort Sill, Oklahoma. So, I actually saved myself a move, or saved the Army a move, because my basic course was at Fort Sill, and then my first assignment was another unit at Fort Sill, so right at Fort Sill {Laughs}.

Daryl Williams:

Right at home {Laughs}. Alright, what was your first international, or overseas deployment?

Gregory Gadson:

Deployment?

Daryl Williams:

Yea.

Gregory Gadson:

Operation Desert Shield Desert Storm.

Daryl Williams:

Right into, right into it.

Gregory Gadson:

Yea, so I graduated in May of 90, I signed into my first unit, operational unit in February of 1991. After I--so I went to the basic course and then I went to Airborne school at Fort Benning for a few weeks, and then I signed into my unit in either late January or February of 91, and found myself--of 1990 I'm sorry, February of 1990, and found myself, along with unit, in the deserts of Saudi Arabia in October of 90. So, didn't take long.

Daryl Williams:

No {Laughs}. How long was your first deployment?

Gregory Gadson:

Six months.

Daryl Williams:

Did they get longer, or did they average six months.

Gregory Gadson:

Well, I--they got longer, I would say they did not average six months. My first two deployments were six months, next one was a year, next one was 15 months, but I didn't, my unit was there for 15 months, I was ultimately wounded at about month five so I didn't stay there the whole time.

Daryl Williams:

So, how many deployments were, how many times did you deploy to the desert?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, combat deployments, or hostile duty deployments, four, and then you had a number of exercises where you're in Germany, in the Philippines, and you know those things are time away from your family as well.

Daryl Williams:

Right. So, you began, your first deployment was 91, so 10 years later you're still deploying, and if you will share with us 2007, May 7th as much as you will share with us give us an account for that day.

Gregory Gadson:

Well, it started out, it started out like many days, I had probably one or two engagements with local Iraqi leaders that took up most of my day, but toward the end of the day I knew that there was a memorial service for two soldiers that had been killed from a sister battalion from Fort Riley, Kansas in my parent brigade of 4th Brigade of First I.D. The memorial service was being held at Forward Operating Base Falcon, and so I traveled from my last meeting with some Iraqi leaders to F.O.B. Falcon.

Daryl Williams:

How long was that distance?

Gregory Gadson:

I don't think it was super long, maybe 20 or 30 minutes, not a super long drive. I remember even getting reports of intel that there were some I.E.D. attacks along the route that we were taking to get to Forward Operating Base Falcon. That wasn't unusual in Iraq at that time, and so we got there without any disruption. One of the other things I remember about that day was, there were six battalions in my parent brigade of 4th Brigade of First Infantry Division, and two of us got separated and attached to alternate units, so I was attached to Second Brigade of First Infantry Division and they were actually headquartered out of Germany, and 216 was another battalion that was a part of my original brigade they were also detached, and so we all got to Falcon and that was the first time we'd seen each other since we left Fort Riley. It was kind of a, we were there to support our fellow Battalion Commander Joe Burchmeier and the loss of his soldiers but it kind of just turned into a reunion, and we could just kind of catch up, and it was just good to see each other. One of my best friends Pat Frank was the commander of 128 Infantry, he was the last guy that I spent some time with, and was in a meeting, was in his office in his headquarters, and the area that I was hit in was actually 128's area, so I had to go through his area to get back to my headquarters, and so he was the last guy I talked to and it was time to head back. I remember getting my vehicle and we did our convoy brief, our combat patrol brief, and then we got in out vehicles to head out, it was about 9:30 or so at night, I started to think about you know the next day, but I also remember just this, there was this still physical melancholy for those two soldiers I remember just as I was, as we were heading north back to my headquarters, I remember just thinking that those two men you know their lives are gone. What do their families feel like, what are they going through? My heart was just totally heavy for their loss, and I didn't even personally know them. Then that's when my vehicle was hit. The blast lifted my vehicle off the ground and ejected me out on the road. I remember hitting the ground, hitting the ground {Moves hand resembling rolling motion}and coming to a rolling stop on my back, and just kind of a little bit in disbelief but really angry and pissed off because I'm like, you know pardon my French, but I'm like, "We're out here, I'm out here trying to do the right thing by these people and these fuckers are trying to kill me!" I mean it just pissed me off, and then I realized something was wrong with me and I knew it was serious, and I remember saying, "God I don't want to die in this country," and then I just lost consciousness, it was just black. So, I was traveling in a four-vehicle patrol and I was number three out of four vehicles. I was fortunate that my Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, First Sergeant Fredrick Johnson, was traveling in the fourth vehicle, so he actually saw my vehicle get hit. So, when my vehicle came to a stop, he got out and came to assess what was going on, and actually the remaining four folks didn't even realize I was missing because there was another man that was wounded, and he was hit, he was demanding a lot of attention because of his wounds. So, First Sergeant Johnson was like, "Where's the Colonel?" No one knew where I was at, and so he started to look around and eventually he found, you know he saw what looked like a silhouette lying on the ground, and it was about 100 meters away or so, and he got to me and I'm already lying in a pool of my blood, and he started to resuscitate me. Then Private Eric Brown, who was our designated medic, put the tourniquets on my legs, but I don't remember that. So, they were able to get me back, they took me back to Falcon, and got me to the Troop Medical Clinic, and I remember the medical tents are all white on the inside, they're reflective of light, and I just remember just feeling so bright, and it was a really dark night, so we went from this stark darkness to this super lit tent. The Brigade Surgeon is sitting on top of me trying to control my bleeding by putting pressure on me, and I see one of my fellow Battalion Commanders, Colonel Rob Weaver, and his Sergeant Major, and they're kind of looking at me, and the look, I can see the look in their eye that it's not good, and my Brigade Commander is there, Colonel Ricky Gibbs, and I just know, and again I don't know if I'm going to live or die, but I know that I am not in good shape, and all I can remember is talking to my Brigade Commander and I said, "You know I don't know if I'm going to make it back, but just let Kim and the kids that I love them." Then I remember hearing the helicopter coming in, the sound of a Blackhawk coming in, and that's all I remember, and then I eventually here in Washington, D.C. ironically at Walter Reed Medical Center.

Daryl Williams:

Now, I would be remised to not first thank you right here at this moment for what you gave up for my freedom. I pause to say that, but now you said you did travel back with Will?

Gregory Gadson:

So, Will was, will traveled with me, again I don't remember it, he was able to, the Army let him go as far as Landstuhl, Germany. So, I was wounded on the seventh, on the eight of May they moved me to Balad, on the ninth of May they moved me to Landstuhl, Germany and I arrived at Walter Reed on the 11th of May.

Daryl Williams:

Now in that process, understanding it's hard on your family, but how much information does your family receive, or now that you've had an opportunity to speak with your wife and family, when did they get notified, what did they get notified, how much detail were they given?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, I wish my wife would tell the story because she tells it better. She was actually working out in the gym, and then she had finished her workout, and she was in a sauna. So, we had our rear detachment chain of command, and she sees this Major come into the sauna, and turns around and leaves, and I think she recognized her as the Brigade Adjutant, and then, and then the Brigade Commanders wife comes in, and so she says she knew something was up. So, she comes in and she asks her, Brigade Commanders wife Nauly Gibbs asks Kim to come out, and when she comes out, Brigadier General Yarborough was there, and you know he told her I was wounded, and she said she hit her knees and asked if anyone else was hurt, and she fell to her knees. But at this point, they didn't really know how bad I was you know, this is half way around the world, and so the time and lag and all that kind of stuff is significant, but I think what initially told her is I was wounded and my legs were hurt, but it didn't, it wasn't life threatening, it didn't appear to be life threatening. That was the kind of the initial thing she got, but she didn't know how bad it was, it was really pretty bad, and so one of our generals from Fort Riley, Kansas was also forward, and ironically you know either one or both of the surgeons that were operating on me were both West Point grads. I know one was class of 91', a guy named Brad Woods, he remembered me as a cadet football player. So, General Pittard, Dana Pittard, when I got out of surgery, he called my wife and let my wife talk to the doctor, actually made the doctor talk to her, and that's not usually done, that's not the normal protocol, but he wanted her to, and my wife said after she talked to Dr. Woods, she knew how serious it was, I think he said, "He's a very sick man."

Daryl Williams:

But that goes back to the West Point ties {Laughs}.

Gregory Gadson:

Just the irony. You know, I got to believe, first I give all credit to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but for this to be all lined up, because as I hear the story when they bring me into surgery, I'm a 41 year old man with some pretty serious wounds, and they're not very opti--and so that profile and those types of wounds, they're not particularly optimistic about my ability to survive that, and they're talking and Brad Woods recognizes me, they put the name and face together, and they realize I'm a former Army football player, and that they remember me playing and being a tough guy, and so all a sudden their outlook is upgraded a little bit because what they know about me and what they remember about me. I don't know, I mean these guys, these guys were the guys that operated on me, I have been told after the fact that I went through many multiple organ failures, I went through nearly 130 units of blood, which is really kind of unheard of, and because your body it's not just the fact that the blood is there, but after a while your body can't take that kind of volume of blood. So, that is a significant story in itself, one that I don't even know that I'm truly qualified to talk to because I'm not a medical guy and I do it a bit of disservice even trying to explain it.

Daryl Williams:

If I may be so bold to say that perhaps that is some of your hard, your hard work instilled in you from your dad to make you just understand that you have to fight for what you want, so I can appreciate that. And then, the transition, so I'm sure there were several months of medical work, rehab, about how many months in general before you were fully out of the hospital?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, I was actually only an inpatient, I was out of the hospital in late June, I had 44 days, and I was an outpatient {Laughs}.

Daryl Williams:

Wow {Laughs}.

Gregory Gadson:

But I stayed in outpatient status, I had several surgeries even after I had to go back and have revisions, and other things, so my last surgery related to these injuries was actually in July of 08', so 15 months, 14 months after I was Initially wounded.

Daryl Williams:

Alright. And, so that begins the transition or that starts the transition from military to civilian life?

Gregory Gadson:

Not exactly, I like all folks that are injured, or severely injured, you go before a medical board to be found medically fit or not medically fit to continue service, and I was going to be found to be unfit, but the Army has a program, or regulation called Continuation on Active Duty that allows you to essentially apply to stay on active duty even after you're found unfit as long as you can make a case that you can contribute. So, I applied to stay on active duty and was granted that in early 2010 I believe, so I stayed on active duty over seven years after I was wounded, and was promoted and selected for Colonel Level Command, Brigade Level Command.

Daryl Williams:

Oh, I honestly didn't know that. That being said, how was life then, in that form of military?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, to kind of go back to your original question about transition, I'm a civilian now and I look back at it, and people ask me how was my transition, so one of the hidden pearls in what happened to me is that it actually began my transition even though I stayed in the military another seven plus years, it forced me to think about my life after the military, and so I believe my transition truly started there. Didn't know what I was going to do, but I began to think about it in a much different way than if I had never been injured.

Daryl Williams:

Okay. So, now how was that transition to civilian life, taken into family, community, a wounded soldier, how was that transition? How did family and community receive you?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, one of the decisions that my wife and I made early on was that we wanted to stay in this area in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. area for a number of reasons. I think the first was really the medical facilities that I knew that I was going to need to access because of my injuries, but also because of the opportunities, my wife had been a teacher when we were stationed here earlier, had been a teacher in Fairfax County, we liked the schools, it was just a good fit for our family, so we made that decision pretty quickly that we wanted to stay here. And so, and then as things would progress, my last job as the Garrison Commander of Fort Belvoir, really allowed me to interact with my community in a way that most jobs don't, and so I built a house in the community before I retired, and I really sunk my roots in, so that transition was very honestly very seamless for me because you know one day I was driving to work on Fort Belvoir and next day I wasn't, and I was still in the same house and still in the same community.

Daryl Williams:

Alright, so now my questions are a little bit more broad, because I'm going to ask you to look into the minds of men that you led. So, obviously there's other veterans who have suffered debilitating injuries, life changing injuries. What would be your suggestion to them in making the transition from military to the brand-new civilian life?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, you know, so in all fairness, I'm a little bit hesitant of giving advice because we're all in very different places, all in very different situations. You know, I was 41 years old with a mature family, and I kind of had an idea of who I am, and so sometimes when I think of my, try to put myself back into, if I was 20 years old or 24 years old, where would I be? I would still be trying to find myself. So, to have significant injuries, to have this traumatic experience lumped on top of trying to find yourself, it's a very very difficult situation. So, my advice begins with the understanding and appreciation and the humility that you can't do this by yourself, and you got to get help. I had to get help, I had to see, my family and I had to see a mental health professional. You know, you're in a place that you don't want to be, you're in a place that you didn't anticipate. Even knowing that you're going to harm's way, it's not something you envisioned, but you're there, and there's a community, there's our Army, there's a lot of resources, there's a lot of help out there, and one of the things that you know makes our service members pride is our ability to accomplish and conquer, and do so many things ourselves, and then all a sudden you find yourself in a place where you can't, and so it's not really a natural thing to ask for help. So, I think it begins with that is that recognizing you can't do it alone, you can't do it by yourself, and then reaching out and getting the help you need so you can get your life back on track.

Daryl Williams:

And what say you to the young man, or even many men who are saying, "I don't need mental health help." How much of that is necessary versus just something to do to appease others?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, I would just say this, if you are overcoming either invisible or visible wounds, to deny that you can do this by yourself is just foolish. You are in a situation that you're not necessarily prepared for, you want to get back on your feet, you want to get your life back on track, and so it's just quite honestly foolish to think that you can do it by yourself.

Daryl Williams:

Alright, so Colonel now a little bit lighter, because those of us that will see this video will look at this video will look at you and say, "He looks familiar, I saw him somewhere." Tell us a little bit why some random person would see you as a familiar face.

Gregory Gadson:

Well, this will connect a couple of dots. You may remember me from the movie Battleship, I played a Lieutenant Colonel Retired Mitt Canales, who was a veteran who was wounded in Afghanistan and lost both of his legs above the knee. Truly something that I never imagined, I think it kind of goes back to this, really this when all this happens to you, this kind of I say, "Walk by faith, not by sight," and I really mean that because you got to work hard, and I didn't know it was going to happen I never even dreamed of it, but when I look back at it I say it's about hard work. It's just about applying yourself and do the best you can and that's all you can do and let the chips fall where they fall. And so, the director of the movie, Peter Burr, who is a tremendous New York Giants fan, and saw and understood my relationship with the New York Giants called me up one day and asked me if I'd be in his movie, and I simply said, "Yes." That's the beauty of just kind of grinding, just kind of working hard.

Daryl Williams:

Great. So then, chronologically my question may have been backwards, because I was going to transition into NFL, I didn't realize that NFL came first.

Gregory Gadson:

Right.

Daryl Williams:

So, how did you get involved with the New York Giants? Which happens to be my favorite team.

Gregory Gadson:

Well, I'll give you one guess what the connection is. West Point.

Daryl Williams:

West Point.

Gregory Gadson:

So, my classmate and teammate, Mike Sullivan, in 2000, during the 2007, 2008 season was the wide receivers coach, and like many of my teammates he actually came and visited me in the hospital at Walter Reed. If you recall, the 07'season they started out 0 and 2, and their third game of the season was here in Washington, D.C. against the Redskins. To make a long story short, Mike wanted to run the idea by me if I'd be willing to talk to the Giants before their game and I said sure. The Giants ended up winning that game, they won 10 games on the road that year, and I spoke them that night, I addressed them one more time the night before Super Bowl 42 when they played the undefeated Patriots. So, as Paul Harvey said, "You know the rest of the story." {Laughs}

Daryl Williams:

The rest of the story {Laughs}. It's history, but give us a little insight on that first, what you went through preparing to speak to the New York Giants, because that's obviously your first time speaking to a professional team and then a little bit about what you said to them?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, the preparation was, sorry to disappoint, the preparation was me being stressed out as my wife was driving me down to the hotel and me thinking about what I was going to say to them, and I had a couple of thoughts. My first, and I very quickly put the first thought was I was going to talk to them about football, and I'm like I got off the bus at college I'm not really, I don't really feel comfortable talking to these guys about football, and so I decided to really share with them, what I shared with you, about my teammates, about guys like Will Huff, and others, Chuck Scretzman, that--the value of teamwork, the value of living every day and taking every moment as your last, and that's what I tried to share with them and it was well received.

Daryl Williams:

I would say {Laughs}. So, that's a little glimpse of military bringing--bringing military into a civilian mindset, how has the military shaped your life? Other than the obvious, how has the military shaped you?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, you know as you said, you know I guess you have a presence, you have a poise, you have a way of really kind of assessing the situation. You know, one of things that I think for me what makes me proud to be associated and have served in the military, is you know I say you name an organization in this country that you can give any problem to anywhere in the world, and the military will figure it out. Whether it's the, helping clean up the Fukushima nuclear disaster, or Ebola in Africa, or fighting counter insurgencies all over the world. I mean, what other organization has that breath of spectrum to be able to handle those kind of problems? Hurricane Andrew in Florida, I mean we can take on any problem, and we do, and it's because we have a membership that has sworn their allegiance to our nation and our nation's leaders, and we have processes to evaluate and determine solutions to solve problems, and there's not too many organizations that have the reach and have the size, the reach and the scope that the military does. So, I think that's always going to be a part of me, when I'm faced with a problem or solution--I mean a challenge or whatever, it's you know those attributes subconsciously or consciously are part of how I deal with it.

Daryl Williams:

So now with that being said, are you affiliated still, or currently is there any type of veteran organization or something that you would like to give kudos to or credit to?

Gregory Gadson:

Well, I'm an ambassador for the Vail Veterans Program. Ironically, it was the first visit that I took outside the hospital after I was wounded in August of 07', to the Vail Veterans Summer Program, and the ironic part was that while I was there I actually bumped into the college football coach that I last played my last college football game against, Bill Curry, who was the coach of the University of Alabama, and he and I talked for a couple of hours. I'll leave you with this, when I was done talking with him, he said this, "Young man, you have something to share with the world, don't be afraid to share it." Less than a month later, my classmate Mike Sullivan asked me to talk to the Giants, that was the first time I talked to any organization outside the Army, and so that has obviously put me on a path to continue. So, as my life continues I made a promise when I transition, that I make sure to make time to serve my community, and my community is my veterans community, the military community, the disability community, the African American community, and I make time for those things, and that's why I'm here with Salute to Veterans. So, that's part of my charter.

Daryl Williams:

And, as you mention that, I give my little moment of spiel, so we are here for the Salute to Veterans, and just a brief summary is our opportunity to let veterans know that beyond Veteran's Day and Memorial Day, that we should be a little bit more thankful every single day that we have this freedom that we have, and it is my opportunity here that we are placing this here into the Library of Congress, to be here for all eternity, that I one would like to take this moment to one thank you of course, but to salute my brother, the late Sergeant Ralph Williams Junior for his service, but I would like you to speak to what you can do, what we can do, in a simple way on a daily basis to show our salutes to the veterans we encounter?

Gregory Gadson:

Thank you for sharing that Daryl. We all have talents, time, resources that we can offer our community, and our lives are not about ourselves, regardless of if you where the uniform or not, and so, I just think it's incumbent upon all of us as citizens to find a way to involve ourselves in our community, again whether it's your time, your resources, or your talent, how can you make a difference? How can you make a difference? That's what I hope our example of service is about, is about making a difference, and so I feel very privileged that I was able to serve, and that I continue to serve my community in any way I can.

Daryl Williams:

Well, on behalf of the Salute to Veterans, I one would like to thank you for your time, for your candidacy, just speaking to us I know you went through some trying times, and I want to thank you that you felt comfortable enough with me to share those moments with me. This was a tremendous opportunity to speak with you here at the Library of Congress, and like I repeat again, to be here for eternity, and so I thank you.

Gregory Gadson:

Thank you.

 
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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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