THIS IMAGE from photographer John Gaps III showed up in the inbox the other day, and it transported me back 25 years to the Saudi Arabian desert, bringing with it a flood of war story memories from Operation Desert Storm. I covered the war and its aftermath as a network radio correspondent.
Saddam Hussein had been firing the Scud missiles at U.S. forces every night. This particular missile I am standing over (jokingly holding my trusty microphone for an 'interview') landed near Dharan, where most media were based during the war. It reminded me that one night, I had been sharing notes with an editor in Washington. He asked me if I'd seen any Scuds. Just at that precise moment, a Scud magically appeared on the horizon, fire flickering from the nozzles in its tail. It was surreal. I started giving play-by-play. "Why yes, there's one out my window right now. It's moving left to right along the horizon."
The photo and the memories it triggered made me think about the nature of war stories, which of course don't have to be about war. It's part of the human spirit to cast events as stories, from Greek plays to Marvel blockbusters. The war story, whether factual or fictional, has the most ancient of pedigrees. Our heroes and villains stand in sharp relief and live long in our memories.
The point is, war stories are so powerful you probably have noticed that you tell them over and over again. And more than that, people ask you to retell them. It could be anything from a lawyer's great courtroom moment to a nonprofit's courage in responding at a disaster scene. Not every story has to have a happy ending, either. Think back to campfire tales and you'll know what I mean.
Told well, your war stories are an asset. Don't be afraid about telling them. They can -- and will -- connect you to your audience in unexpected ways. Take a moment to think back about a time of adversity or triumph. Maybe even a defeat and a lesson learned. I think you'll find the revealing nature of the war story can generate respect, empathy, camaraderie, and shed a little light on the character of your organization and its staff -- and even its clients and customers.
Those are stories worth telling - and retelling.