Adversity and Leadership

Adversity and Leadership
Photo by Janne Simoes / Unsplash

"Fire it! There's more of them than there are of us. Give em hell!"

John Fox was born in May 1915 in Cincinnati. Growing up Black in America early in the 20th century, he faced adversity. Growing up the oldest of three kids, he lived leadership.

John was a fellow Buckeye before transferring to Wilberforce University, an HBCU in Ohio where he participated in ROTC. He graduated in 1941 and received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army.

During World War II, John was one of the Buffalo Soldiers, the famed primarily Black regiments that served honorably in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Fast forward in John's service, and it's just before Christmas 1944. German soldiers had overrun Allied positions in the Italian village of Sommocolonia, forcing an American retreat. The tide had turned in the war and the outlook for the Axis powers was bleak. The Germans spreading through the village were tired and angry.

Good thing John knew adversity.

To protect the Allied retreat, John volunteered to stay in his position on the second floor of a house to track German movement and direct artillery fire.

Good thing John knew leadership.

He called for artillery barrages as the Germans advanced. As they began to overrun his position, he called for an attack within yards of the house. His commander asked him to confirm the coordinates.

John didn't waiver. John had faced adversity and lived leadership. He confirmed the coordinates. The last words he ever spoke:

"Fire it! There’s more of them than there are of us. Give em hell!"

A week later, the Allies retook Sommocolonia. They found John's body surrounded by more than 100 dead Germans.

Although his heroism wasn't recognized until the 1980s, John's leadership and courage in the face of adversity protected the retreat, allowed the retaking of the village, and preserved Allied momentum in the war.

That is heroism. And that is what we're celebrating this weekend.

Beer, meat, and a grill is among my favorite combinations. And a Monday off is never a bad thing.

But in the back of my mind are John and the brave men and women like him who gave their lives. Because of their sacrifices, my biggest problems this weekend are what to put on the grill, which sunscreen to use, and whether or not I bought enough mulch.

America has a long way to go. But without people like John, we wouldn't be where we are today.

Thank you to those that made the ultimate sacrifice, and the families, friends, and lives they left behind.