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Heroes Among Us: “Heroism is that inner voice telling you…“You already know what to do…” and, you do it without a second thought”

With Ronn Easton


Sometimes, we’re put in positions or situations that seem to be the daily norm till, an incident we’re witness to takes place… It’s that ‘inner’ voice telling you.. “You already know what to do…” and, you do it without a second thought. I truly believe, that a hero does not necessarily have to face a life and death situation but can be as simple as a teenager aiding the elderly, because Heros lead by example.


As a part of our series about leadership lessons learned in the military, I had the pleasure to interview Ronn Easton. Ronn was born in October 1949, in the deep south of Memphis, Tennessee lived in Cleveland Ohio where he graduated High School and later in 1969 enlisted in the US Army till 1972. His ‘MOS’ (Military Occupation Specialty) was Armorer. Ronn saw Vietnam like many in his position in 1970 and later, honorably discharged in 1972. His civilian career after his time in the military, saw Ronn working for the Minnesota Department of Health, as a Job Disease Investigator for 23 years, dealing with sexually transmitted infections including HIV through to his retirement in October 2015. However, between 2015 and 2017, he served as a Volunteer Coordinator for the Mentor Program for Hennepin County Veterans Court. Ronn is married to Lisa Henry, has one daughter and enjoys spending time with his 4 grandsons.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Ronn! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

Iwas born Ronnie Evans Easton in October of 1949 in Memphis Tenn during very tumultuous times in the South. Growing up in a middle class segregated neighborhood boundaries were a major part of my early education because as an African American I was restricted as to where I could eat, sleep, pray and many other things. I was raised by my maternal Grandmother due to an absentee Mother and being a rambunctious child who always got into mischief but never crossed the line. Brought up Southern Methodist. I learned to always say please and thank you and the importance of a firm handshake and to look a Man in his eyes and that his word was his bond. Realizing at an early age that the attitudes and the racism of the South was not a fit for me therefore, I moved to Cleveland Ohio at the age of 14 to live with my biological Mother where, I suffered through a severe culture shock as my high school class was 80% White students. I was truly a minority for the first time in my life. It was here I learned to adapt and overcome by losing my Southern accent and learned to be curious about other cultures. After graduating high school in 1968, I tried my hand at college but, after learning two of my childhood friends were KIA in Vietnam I dropped out and enlisted in the U.S. Army and after basic training at Ft. Campbell Kentucky and training as an armored, I was assigned to 5\42 artillery in The Republic of Vietnam in 1970.

It was here I realized that life as I knew it would never be the same for some of the sights, sounds and even smells would stay with me for the rest of my life. It was here where the meaning of team and covering each others six was the only thing that mattered. Ironically I also found that the racism I left Memphis to escape was alive and prevalent among the troops which I found strange that racial hatred would sometimes override why I was there. Once after a fire fight one morning came I came into full view of the carnage from the fight and the sight of torn bodies and the smell of stale blood will never go away. During my life I have learned that a Hero comes in many many forms. From an elderly Grandparent raising her grandchildren after all of her children were adults and gone to that person next to you on duty willing to give their life so that others may live to teachers who dedicate themselves to molding and shaping young lives.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

After graduating high school in 1968 I tried my hand at college but after learning two of my childhood friends were KIA in Vietnam I dropped out and enlisted in the U.S. Army and after basic training at Ft. Campbell Kentucky and training as an armored I was assigned to 5\42 artillery in The Republic of Vietnam in 1970. It was here I realized that life as I knew it would never be the same for some of the sights, sounds and even smells would stay with me for the rest of my life. It was here where the meaning of team and covering each others six was the only thing that mattered.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

Ironically, I found that the racism I left Memphis to escape was alive and prevalent among the troops which I found strange that racial hatred would sometimes override why I was there. Once after a fire fight when morning came I was in full view of the carnage from the fight and the sight of torn bodies and the smell of stale blood will never go away.

I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

During my life I have learned that a Hero comes in many many forms. From an elderly Grandparent raising her grandchildren after all of her children were adults and gone to that person next to you on duty willing to give their life so that others may live to teachers who dedicate themselves to molding and shaping young lives.

Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?

Not always, no. Sometimes, we’re put in positions or situations that seem to be the daily norm till, an incident we’re witness to takes place.. It’s that ‘inner’ voice telling you.. “You already know what to do…” and, you do it without a second thought. I truly believe, that a hero does not necessarily have to face a life and death situation but can be as simple as a teenager aiding the elderly, because Heros lead by example.

Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience”?

In short, when you get to know me, you’ll learn that:

1. My word is my bond

2. Never ask someone to do something you would not do yourself

3. Honor is something that must not be compromised

4. Trust once lost is difficult to regain

5. Real Men cry

As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. How did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?

To this very day I bear the telltale scars of Vietnam in the firm of despising fireworks and the sound of a chopper at night causes shudders. Relationships are difficult in the beginning due to trust but once formed are life long.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Proudly, I took into a life of service working as a disease investigator for The Department of Health helping individuals dealing with STD’S and HIV for 23 years but still with a strong allegiance to other Veterans Ronn decided to form Operation Cover Your Six. I saw this as an opportunity to do something about Veteran homelessness and the seemingly endless rate of suicide by renovating empty homes and donating a finished home to a worthy Veteran.

I also want to open a vocational center to deal with the issues if PTSD, addiction and job training while acclimating a Veteran back into society.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?

Make sure each team member is confident as to what their responsibilities are and the expectations of that position.

What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

The best way to manage is to lead by example and never ask someone to do something that you yourself in unwilling to do

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My Grandmother Pearl is primarily responsible for any success in my life for she helped me to build a strong foundation and the wisdom as to what or what not to build on it.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Any success I have achieved I use as an example to young Men especially young Men of Color how to adapt and overcome. That character is what defines a Man

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A movement I WOULD LOVE to inspire would be one of a return to civility, kindness and tolerance.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My Madear use to say “a hard head makes a soft ass”. If a person is so hard headed as to not listen and be willing to accept advice and or criticism is subject to take some additional bumps along the way.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Oh I would love to pick Jimmy Carter’s brain over lunch. Or Gary Sinise.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.

You’re very welcome. I thank my dear friend Donna Segura, owner/Publicist of Oleander PR for bringing this opportunity to my attention with hopes, it fully encapsulates the who, what and why of my overall mission as a proud Vietnam Veteran, humbled & Proud American who served whose next phase in life is to successfully give those in need, a valuable resource through Operation Cover your Six (Website: www.coveryoursix.org)

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