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“No accomplishment of real value has ever been achieved by a human being working alone.” – John Maxwell

Captain Charlie Plumb flew 74 combat missions during the Vietnam war.

On his 75th and final mission, Charlie was shot down. After losing control of his plane, he ejected from the plane and spent the next 90 seconds slowly and safely floating down to earth. Immediately captured by the enemy, he spent the next 2,103 days as a prisoner of war.

For six years Charlie endured abuse and torture. He survived because of an unwavering devotion to returning home with honor, a deep sense of connectivity with his fellow prisoners of war, a desire to be reconnected with his family, an ever-present faith, and a steadfast resolve to simply not give up.

But it was only decades after returning home, during a chance encounter, that he understood his primary cause of survival.

While enjoying a meal at a Kansas City diner, Charlie noticed a gentleman across the room looking at him. After several awkward glances, the gentleman stood, walked over to Charlie’s table, and asked if he served during Vietnam. Charlie verified that he had served, so the stranger asked Charlie if he had flown jets off the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. Charlie nodded. Finally, the gentleman asked if he’d been shot down on his final mission.

Charlie asked the stranger how he knew all this information?

The man extended his hand, shook Charlie’s, pulled him close and said, “I packed your parachute.”

Charlie was overwhelmed with emotion.

He extended a grateful hand and shared that he’d said a lot of prayers of thanks for his nimble fingers over the years, but never thought he’d have the opportunity to express his gratitude in person.

(During my recent Live Inspired Podcast, Charlie Plumb shared his story just in time for Memorial Day. Listen here to our fascinating, emotional and poignant conversation and be reminded that you too can be a hero for others.)

My friends, as you step into this holiday, this week, this summer: Take pause to recognize all the teachers, parents, co-workers, mentors, friends and strangers who’ve ‘packed your parachute.’ The people who prepare you to safely pass through life’s challenges.

On this Memorial Day, as we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy, take pause to acknowledge the selfless love and ultimate sacrifice of those who made it possible. [Share on Facebook] | [Tweet this]

In addition to barbeques, family parties and parades, perhaps the finest way to celebrate this Memorial Day is to actively seek opportunities to pack the parachutes for others.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

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Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.