USAA Military Relationships Director Greg Pratt remembers a teachable moment long ago, his first year in the Navy. He was the one being taught. It was his first deployment. The year was 1976, it was 0530, and he was a deck hand somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
“They told us to get our swabs and swab the deck,” Pratt recalls. “I asked the chief, ‘Why the heck are we up here at 5:30, pitch dark, and we’re swabbing the deck?’ Of course, you know, I am lucky he didn’t tear my head off, right? The chief didn’t tear my head off. He stood there for the next 45 minutes and explained to me the importance of my job. He talked about dedication. He talked about mission. He talked about leadership. He talked about each one of us playing a role. No matter what our job was that day, or at that moment, our role was important to the mission. He said it was dedication to self, dedication to others, dedication to mission. I will remember that chief and what he told me forever.”
Dedication would guide Pratt into a 30-year Navy career, finishing as a force master chief. After he retired from the Navy, Pratt said he found himself wanting to serve veterans, troops and their families. Thus, a job at USAA and membership in The American Legion were natural outlets.
“Dedication is not what others expect of you,” he said, quoting an unknown spokesperson. “It is what you give to others. That is what you do through your many Legion programs like Legion Baseball, Boys State, Boys Nation, Operation Comfort Warriors and Legion Riders… You provide a future for those who have served, those who are serving and those who will serve in the communities they live in. When I look into the eyes of young servicemembers and see dedication, desire… I know that often a Legionnaire or one of the (Legion) programs put that desire in those young folks.”
Mentoring young people, helping veterans with transitions, serving in the community are all functions of military-style dedication, Pratt explained. “It’s what servicemembers do, whether on the battlefield or here at home helping someone adjust, reacquaint or even transition from the military. Servicemembers like you are dedicated and do so many things greater than themselves.”
He said that common thread is one reason The American Legion and USAA have enjoyed such a successful relationship over the last six years; USAA is The American Legion’s preferred provider of financial services. “When I look at The American Legion, I look at a group that had the dedication and the commitment to wear the uniform and continue to serve our military, veterans and their families. I see many parallels between The American Legion and what USAA works to do every day – taking care of veterans, those serving, and their families.
“Dedication is something I learned early on from mentors. If you look up the word ‘dedication’ in Webster, it says a ‘feeling of strong support or loyalty to someone or something, the quality or state of being dedicated to a person, group or cause.’ You can replace those words with The American Legion because that’s what you all do.”