The Gift of a Soldier’s Return

Published: December 29, 2011

The week between Christmas and new Years has been brimming with stories about soldiers returning from tours of duty to be reunited with their families. Seldom does the news of the day so aptly capture the dichotomous essence of relationships: the delicate balance between attachment and loss.

Picture the images in your mind. Imagine the child in the grade school classroom collapsing into the arms of his father as he recognizes the man in military fatigues entering his space. Consider the wife in the airport terminal consummating an embrace that has waited two years to occur. These are the displays of attachment that arise out of the all-too-real fear that the person you most love has been lost.

These family reunions live in the context of a much larger wager that determines whether the tearful reunions in classrooms and airports can occur. The commitment of the men and women who devote their lives to the protection of our country cannot be measured in the same category with most teams. There are few teams that understand the devotion to a common mission in the way that a military operation does. When everyone’s safety is in the hands of their teammates with national security hanging in the balance, error-free teamwork becomes non-negotiable. While sports teams and corporations are trying to win games or make profits with good teamwork, the military ensures our freedoms. For some teams, effective teaming is about attachment and loss as defined by life and death.

Each of us manages some variation of this gauntlet in our lives. Your willingness to invest in the depth of a powerful connection includes the inevitable risk of losing the piece of yourself that has been invested. It’s easier to hold back and sacrifice the potential of the attachment to protect against the prospect of pain. One does not come without the other.

The Team Clock Institute thanks the brave members of our armed service teams both returning and still deployed. The hugs filling the television screen and newspaper images are but a fraction of the story. Their example teaches.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.