It’s been both an honor and a privilege writing about the soldiers and veterans that I’ve been featuring in the ‘hero highlight’ series I started just a short while ago. I’m amazed at how what was started as a way to pay homage to my old drill sergeant, U.S. Army First Sergeant and now acting Sergeant Major, Byron Humphrey, out of respect, has grown, in only one month, to something that has garnered a following of tens of thousands of readers, anxiously chomping at the bit to read about our next living hero of whom I’ll write.
I found myself asking, ‘how did this happen?’ so I decided to tell you how it happened, and in so doing, bring to your attention our next hero, Mr. Drew Deaton.
In October of last year, I’d published my novel “Off Switch,” which was my attempt, albeit a single handed attempt built on few resources, to raise awareness of the rampant suicide issue among our veterans and soldiers in the U.S. It’s a powerful story with a powerful message, but other than the handful of folks who’d read and enjoyed some of my previous work (and I do thank all six of you) no one was reading it.
How to get it out there?
Enter Drew Deaton. Drew is the president of ‘Honor the Sacrifice,’ and he is one of the administrators of the group’s Facebook page. ‘Honor the Sacrifice’ is only one of many Facebook groups that have been ever so helpful in getting my book and these “Hero Highlight” articles in front of readers. All Drew told me when I’d contacted him back in December of last year when I was frantically contacting as many people as I could asking for help was, “I’m a veteran, and I’m here to help, brother. Let’s see what we can do.”
What Drew did, was redesign my book’s cover, free of charge, to make it more attractive, and he started running contests on his page to bring attention to me and my little known work. He started introducing me to others in the online veteran and soldier community who were also concerned with the suicide epidemic our heroes are facing in America. He’d contact me every other week or so, just to check in and see how I was doing, making sure I wasn’t giving up on my mission.
Out of respect, I’d called Drew, “Sir,” or “Mr. Deaton,” on occasion, and every time I’d done so, he’d insisted that I simply call him Drew. I’d thank him profusely any time I’d have even a glimmer of success from his efforts, and he’d ALWAYS insist that I not give praise to him, but give it to his team at Honor the Sacrifice, and that he was “simply being used as an instrument of God to help others.”
As Drew continued helping me, I got to know him more on a personal level. I’d learned that he’d deployed to Iraq twice, and was still active duty Army, but that was about it, until one day he mentioned he was volunteering to deploy to Afghanistan as casually as Barney might have mentioned to Andy that he was heading down to the gas station for a soda pop. Upon gaining this information, my first thought was, ‘I have to find out more about my friend Drew!’
You’ll imagine my shock when I found out that my friend Drew is known in the Army as Major Deaton!
Due to the effort and the amount of time that Drew was putting in with me- a guy who was cutting his fingernails more regularly than he was actually selling a book at the time- I had assumed that he was simply another lower enlisted man, like me, who understood the lamentations of the down trodden. But the facts I was quickly learning about Drew showed that he was not a man who was down trodden in anyway, but rather, a man who was reaching down from a very high place to give those of us who were a bit down a hand up.
Upon inquiring, and prying, and forcing him to talk about himself, I learned that Major Deaton had received his commission in 1996. He has a Master’s Degree in Justice Studies from Fort Hayes State University and a Business and Organizational Security Management degree from Webster University. He has completed airborne school, as well as a list of other military schools too long to print in this article, and he has served not only in Iraq (again, twice) and stateside, but also in Korea. Major Deaton has served in organizations from platoon up to Multinational Corps level, and he has served in multiple primary staff positions and has lead Soldiers in Platoon Leader, Company Commander and Battalion Commander (Rear) (Provisional) positions. In regard to his military duties, Drew told me that, “leading soldiers is always a humbling honor, and something I regard as a sacred trust.”
But what is more admirable than his military achievements, from a ‘veteran here to help’ standpoint, is all of the work that Drew and his team at Honor the Sacrifice have done, and continue to do, to help soldiers and veterans in need. They have done everything from buying financially strapped veterans groceries, one after being released from a lengthy hospital stay, to organizing poker rides, concerts, and other events to raise money and awareness for veterans in need. Drew and his team at Honor the Sacrifice have even gone out and given blankets and winter clothing to homeless vets just as the weather started to turn cold.
I asked Drew what he was most proud of in regard to his work at Honor the Sacrifice, and again, he took no personal credit, and gave the glory to God when he told me, “I think the best “achievement” is in being there for our brothers and sisters-in-arms when they truly need us and thus fulfilling the part of the Warrior Ethos that says “I WILL NEVER LEAVE A FALLEN COMRADE”. The sincere “thank you” that comes from one of the veterans whom God blesses by using us as His instruments is a powerful thing and probably the greatest reward for any of what we do.”
Recently, in the land of the free, because of the brave, a United States Marine veteran, Michael, and his family had the home that they had been renting sold out from underneath them by their landlord. With no warning, they’ve been forced to relocate, when not prepared to do so, and they need help in a drastic way.
Enter again Drew Deaton, a “veteran who is here to help.” As of the writing of this hero highlight, Drew, or Major Deaton if you will, and his team at Honor the Sacrifice are just past the half-way mark in reaching their goal of raising $2,500 to help Michael and his family. If you’d like to help Drew and his team in their efforts of helping our brother in need, you can do so by donating as little as one dollar at this link:
If only one out of twenty of you who read this article, based upon the number of people who have read my other hero highlight articles, donated just one dollar, Drew and his team would reach their goal needed in helping this brother of ours and his family.
Major Deaton not only exemplifies what great military leadership should look like, but he also sets examples in civic duty, selfless service, and personal commitment to get outside of self in the ‘me world’ in which we live, and do for others what few people will. He is a living example of both following the golden rule and truly honoring the warrior ethos he mentions of “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
Please pray for Drew and his family, as he sets to leave them- his beautiful wife and their four children- and go to a place he doesn’t have to go, Afghanistan, within days of this article’s release. I asked Drew why, after already having served two deployments in Iraq, and making it home safely both times, he would gamble with the hands of chance and volunteer for another deployment. He told me, “I have been home since September, 2009, and it’s time for me to shoulder my part of the load again and get back in the ‘up close and personal’ fight… I can’t expect others to go downrange if I’m not willing to go myself. And looking at it esoterically, being a Soldier is not just what I do … it’s who I am.”
I encourage you to share this, Drew’s story, with your friends and family. We need to break the accepted norm of only praising our military men and women after we’ve read about them in an obituary and give them the praise they are worthy of while they are still with us. I am convinced that if more of us did so, we would keep more of them with us longer. Too many of our veterans who are becoming statistics in the mass suicide epidemic we’re seeing in the U.S. are not dying of P.T.S.D. and drug addiction as much as they are dying from neglect.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know Drew, and I hope that you have as well through reading his story. Drew, it has been a privilege to honor YOUR sacrifice!
*Kevin E Lake is an Iraq War Veteran and author of the book “Off Switch,” which was written to raise awareness of the veteran/soldier suicide epidemic in the U.S. It is available on Amazon at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Off-Switch-ebook/dp/B009Q3MSK2