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Friday, October 12, 2018

By ALAN KAPLAN, Navy League National President

Over the last several months, I have been consistently asked the same question by family, colleagues and friends: How can someone with a young family, in the prime of his profession, put everything on hold to volunteer as the national president of the Navy League of the United States? This may seem like a complicated question, but to me, it is simple — just as the decision to serve was for the service members we profile in this issue.

It is about giving back and making a difference. I know my late father-in-law, who devoted his life to serving his country, is looking down on his family with pride. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, worked for the National Security Agency, served as assistant general counsel at the Drug Enforcement Agency and was a district commodore in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. This is the choice my family makes every day — service and devotion to something bigger.

Being part of a team that gives back in support to those who protect us and our freedom is an honor for all of us at the Navy League. Serving as national president has provided an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the well-being of our nation’s sea services and their families. My hope is that my children will be proud when they look back one day at how their father served others.

It has been my privilege to work with and meet many of our sea service advocates and leaders, each one of them a profile in service and leadership. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer is passionate about his priorities, which center on people, capabilities and processes. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson delivered a speech at Sea-Air-Space 2017 about how important it is to lead your team to learn, compete and win with a consistent sense of urgency.

I am inspired by other great leaders, including Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, Rep. John Garamendi, Sen. Roger Wicker, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Coffman, Maritime Administrator Mark H. Buzby and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Ship Programs Gloria Valdez, and their capacity to serve others and put people first. With them at the helm, we know that the men and women of our sea services are in the most capable of hands.

I have also been humbled by the service of our Navy League members, especially when more than 70 stormed Capitol Hill in November and delivered a message to more than 210 offices in support of the sea services. Our team is always ready to answer the call.

Our corporate members have also provided strong leadership. My discussions with Dr. Jack London of CACI International Inc. on character have been valuable in shaping my understanding of service. This former naval aviator reinforces the importance of conducting business with character.

His statement of success resonates with me: “Character will determine how far you will go and if you will succeed or fail.” This type of commitment to character and service from our corporate and individual members has preserved the Navy League’s 115-year reputation as the voice of the sea services.

These are times of rapid, high-velocity change that require character and a commitment to service. It is my honor and privilege to lead our organization. Together, as a team operating with urgency and character, we will win and continue to do great things in support of our mission.

One Team — Mission Focused.