Monday, January 26, 2009

Someone I Wish I’d Have Met

Published around 9 December 08

As I sat there before his funeral service, watching the pictures of Captain Robert Yllescas’ life roll through the presentation in the auditorium and then listened to the words shared about him from those who served with him, I couldn’t help but wish that I would have met him.

His service and sacrifice to our nation are enough to set him apart for all of us. On a personal level, his interests in the outdoors, Husker football, or agronomy might have captured the attention of others. So would his love of life and family.

There were a few comments and one picture that stood out amongst all; the ones that spoke volumes to me.

Rob was described by his commander as “a force to be reckoned with.” That’s not a phrase that gets used often and is not thrown around much as a descriptor of a soldier’s capabilities. I don’t know if you’ve ever met someone you considered “a force to be reckoned with,” but I’ve met, literally, just a few.

They are exceptional individuals who stand out amongst all. They command, not by dictating but by earning, the respect of subordinates, peers, and superiors. They make things happen. They get things done. They are the difference makers.

From all I could gather, Rob made a huge difference in his short life.

His commander went on to describe Rob’s abilities in the arena of counter-insurgency warfare. Balancing the variables of this type of warfare is by far one of the most challenging endeavors we ask our soldiers to embark upon. But Rob’s commander let us know that he was executing the elements of security operations, developing local relationships, and providing the community stability necessary to winning a difficult conflict.

He was praised for his excellence in one of the most demanding types of warfare. Yes, that’s a guy anyone who’s interested in military operations should like to have met.

Captain Yllescas’ ferocity in battle and skill level to which he had trained his soldiers were exemplified in the fact that his troop was not engaged by the enemy for a full 60 days after Rob defeated them so soundly in one particular engagement. Not only did the enemy think twice about attacking them, knowing full well the consequences, for two months they simply wouldn’t think of it at all.

I couldn’t help but believe that Rob Yllescas could have easily worn General Mattis’ motto of “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy” right on his shirt sleeve.

A story shared from a superior went to the heart of what kind of leader Captain Yllescas was. Given the opportunity to choose between a command or Ranger School first, Rob chose Ranger school, knowing that doing so would delay his opportunity to command. Along the military path to career advancement, having a command or multiple commands is the ticket puncher, but Rob chose to become a better warrior and leader over having his ticket punched early.

The man who chooses to perfect his skills as a combat leader (as Ranger school most certainly does) ahead of personal advancement is exactly the kind of selfless man we need to have leading our sons and daughters into combat.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, in addition to the descriptions of Rob’s love for life and his devotion as a husband and father, one picture that stood out amongst all was a picture of him hula-hooping in front of what I assume was his house.

It portrayed a fun loving guy who I suspect was humbling himself for the entertainment of family. Somehow I could see his wife and older daughter laughing as Rob attempted the hula-hoop, especially if he was as unskilled and painful to watch as the average male when doing so. There’s a saying that “real men aren’t afraid to wear pink,” but it should be “a real man isn’t afraid to hula-hoop for his family.”

Pictures are worth a thousand words and that picture may have well described the family man Rob must have been: fun, humble, loving, and yes, even self-deprecating. Selfless we know for sure.

He gave his life for his country. And he also hula-hooped for his family.

Yes, it would have been nice to have known Rob.

God bless you Yllescas family. Godspeed Captain Yllescas.

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