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With Memorial Day just a few days away, we at FindLaw would like to extend a heartfelt salute to all the selfless men and women who have served our country. And while those of us who haven't served can simply change the channel whenever there is news about military conflicts halfway around the world, thousands of uniformed service members don't have that luxury. Look around you; quite a few of these brave individuals are your neighbors and coworkers, or their sons and daughters.
Meet Air Force Captain Tony Alexander
One of our favorite colleagues, Air Force Captain Tony Alexander, works as a Project Manager in our Sunnyvale office. His current title makes sense, given the enormously complicated projects Alexander managed as a young captain in the 1980s. But while his work in the military involved matters of life and death, he credits his service for helping shape his approach to work and life in general.
"You learn a lot about yourself and your teammates," Alexander explained. "And the bottom line is -- it's all about the mission, all about working together and completing the mission. It's not all about yourself."
Speaking Up For the Good of the Team
Sometimes, he explained, one must go against the grain -- while still respecting the chain of command -- to successfully complete a mission. One of his biggest challenges came in 1991, when the U.S. military was deployed to the Philippines to help with the evacuation of non-essential military and DOD personnel (and their families) following the powerful eruption of Mount Pinatubo. His job was to train his logistics team for the transport of food and other supplies to the island of Cebu, where families evacuated from the volcano's destruction were meeting.
Alexander was expected to meet up with another group, under another command structure, after his team was deployed. But he didn't feel right about leaving them and, trusting his instincts, asked his wing commander if he could deploy with them. Even though it was against his commanding officer's original orders, he felt strongly that he needed to be with his team. His CO eventually agreed.
"For me, going there and working with this team and helping them get things set up and dealing with all these different situations and command structures [really helped the mission]," Alexander said.
During the evacuation, an admiral was walking around, asking people in his squadron what they needed to get their jobs done. Most of his fellow officers told the admiral that everything was under control, careful not to rock the boat. But not Alexander.
"I told him what I needed for my team in order to set up and support the families," he said, which was a bold response considering the admiral's high rank. After he told the admiral exactly what he needed, a lieutenant colonel tapped him on the shoulder and praised him for his moxie, but said he should come to him with any requests in the future.
The mission -- dubbed "Operation Fiery Vigil" -- turned out to be a success, with more than 18,000 Americans evacuated and returned to the U.S. Alexander and his nine-member team earned the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for their efforts, thanks partly to Alexander's sense of purpose and willingness to speak up when necessary.
Reflections on a Decorated Air Force Career
Adjusting to civilian life is never easy for service members. However, Alexander -- who earned an honorable discharge and left the service in 1992 -- was able to apply the lessons he learned in the Air Force to his civilian career in computer technology. His service, he explained, taught him how to be very direct about what is needed to complete a given task and the importance of relationships, which serves him well as a project manager.
Among his many achievements in the Air Force, Alexander graduated No. 1 in his ROTC class and was awarded with the prestigious Air Force Commendation Medal for outstanding achievement or meritorious service.
Alexander observes Memorial Day by calling his father and brother (who also are military veterans) and thanking them for their service. On occasion, he added, he'll ride his bike through San Francisco's Presidio and pay his respects to those who came before.
"The whole organization works together to succeed," Alexander explained. "Anytime I see anyone wearing a uniform, I go and thank them for their service."
We're proud to have Captain Tony Alexander on our team and thank him for his service.
Be sure to check out FindLaw's Military Law section for articles and resources about criminal matters; family and housing; administrative issues; benefits; and more. It is one more way we try to support our vets, inside and outside the FindLaw team.