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Speaker brings 'chicken soup' to spouses

Posted 2/25/2011   Updated 2/25/2011 Email story   Print story


by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs

2/25/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- For those who want to make every small moment matter, clever, inspirational and humorous stories can make huge impacts.

Dan Clark, a storyteller, primary contributor to the "Chicken Soup to the Soul" series, songwriter and motivational speaker, brought laughter and encouragement to about 40 Maxwell Gunter spouses Tuesday at Boyd Auditorium.

Clark has visited Maxwell many times, and sees his visits as a way of giving back to the military.

"I get so much more out of (these speeches) than you do," he said. "It just touches my heart."

Mr. Clark was on base to speak to lieutenants in the Air and Space Basic Course. Lynn Peck, wife of Air University commander Lt. Gen. Allen Peck, thought a second speech just for spouses would be a great opportunity.

Mr. Clark made a promise to himself that he will do as much for the military as possible. He's amazed at the results.

At first, he made a commitment to buy a meal for service members at airports. Since he travels a lot, "I'm going broke," he joked.

One day after boarding a plane and taking his seat in first class, he noticed a service member entering the aircraft. He chatted with him, learning he was on his way home from a 15 month tour in Iraq. He offered to swap seats.

"It's the least I can do," he said.

He felt good, but it was short lived.

He expected a comfortable flight in first class, but he was now stuck in the middle aisle, wedged between two big guys. But he turned the situation around. He thought of the service members in Iraq, traveling in 140-degree weather wearing 100 pounds of gear.

He was feeling better emotionally, though no more comfortable, when he noticed the same service member looking for a seat in coach.

He told Mr. Clark he felt guilty about the upgrade.

"He told me, 'The next Soldier who got on the plane, I gave him my seat,'" he said. Mr. Clark was impressed by the service member's integrity, though not surprised. He had been around the military enough to expect this sense of camaraderie. He wasn't surprised, either, when he heard that other first-class passengers swapped their seats with service members. But he was very surprised when the service member introducing him at the conference the next day was one of the men upgraded to first class.

Just like his flight, he said he imagines spouses' lives are different from what they expected. He encourages them to focus on possibilities, not expectations, to avoid feeling like a victim.

Mr. Clark encouraged them to look for ways to make a difference in their communities.

Being committed to change isn't enough, he said.

"What makes people successful is how we can take it to the next level and make it significant."

Mr. Clark recounted the story of his severe football injury while playing for the Oakland Raiders, a tackle that could have left him paralyzed.

"I learned the significance of asking better questions," he said. Instead of asking doctors how they could make him better, he asked himself why he should get better.

After getting out of the hospital, he dedicated his life to developing his significance. He is active in the Wounded Warrior Project and the Make a Wish Foundation.

In addition to being a primary contributor to the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series, he is author of more than 20 books on leadership, business management, poetry and humor. He has spoken at Air War University, Army War College and all five U.S. military academies, and to service members in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He conveys a message of appreciation, not just to the military, but to the spouses, "General Peck said. "I'm impressed by the dedication Dan has."

General Peck met the motivational speaker in 2004 at Shaw Air Force Base and worked with Mr. Clark when he toured with the USO in the Middle East.

Mr. Clark thanked the general for the opportunity to speak to spouses. He also praised him for his humor and strong dedication to his family.

"Those three stars only tell half the story," Mr. Clark said

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