On Memorial Day 2010, LTC Jamie Leonard, the most senior female U.S. military officer to be killed in combat, penned a compelling piece for her local paper titled “A soldier’s view on Memorial Day.” Specifically, Jamie wrote, “Take measure of what you have done for your country and ask yourself if you could do more.” With Jamie in mind, I’ve learned that successes and failures are not measures of a life well-lived. Instead, I’ve learned that a legacy is defined by the ways in which we share our gifts with the world.

Graduation Day 2014

Shortly after graduating from the United States Military Academy and commissioning as an engineer officer in the US Army, I joined the founders of Steel Hearts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the fallen cadets, midshipmen, and graduates of America’s service academies through the sale of high-quality memorial bracelets. In hindsight, I think part of my motivation to join the team came from asking (and answering) Jamie’s question: Can I do more?

At Steel Hearts, every day is Memorial Day. And needless to say, Jamie’s story is one of many that we remember. While I think of her every June 8th (the anniversary of her death), there’s another that I’ve carried with me since I first set foot on campus for my interview in early 2019: James Adamouski.

CPT James F. “Jimmy” Adamouski was accepted to Harvard Business School nearly two decades ago but never attended. Tragically, Jimmy was killed in a helicopter crash while serving in support of Operating Iraqi Freedom. According to an article published in The Crimson in April 2003, because of his acceptance to HBS, he had not been required to fly his final mission but chose to do so anyway.

HBS is a place that is deeply committed to legacy. After all, the school’s mission is “to educate leaders who make a difference in the world.” And I believe that’s a good thing. Every day I’m humbled and inspired by my classmates’ incredible intellect, charisma, and drive. It’s nice to know that there are good people who are prepared to make a positive difference in the world.

Importantly, however, it’s worth recognizing that nobody gets into business school on their own. Every success story is the product of years of teamwork, mentorship, and thoughtful ambition. To those who helped us along the way, we are in your debt. For all Americans, I would add, we are also indebted to the brave men and women who have served our country and are no longer with us. May we honor their service and sacrifice this Memorial Day Weekend, and always, by doing our best to share our gifts with the world.