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AOL Launches 'Idea Salon' with Tribute to Our Troops

Sep 11, 2012

AOL held its inaugural Idea Salon, a traveling speakers series aimed at engaging and educating our employees with new concepts and inspiring philosophies.

Today, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, we welcomed Bill White, former President of the Intrepid museum and tireless advocate for our troops whose efforts have helped raised more than $600 million for their benefit, and U.S. Army Captain Gregory Galeazzi, who received the Purple Heart for his heroism while serving America in southeastern Afghanistan as a platoon leader in the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, to a packed house at AOL's New York headquarters.

Bill asked us to consider how the people of America responded not just to the immediate events of 9/11, but also in the aftermath, recalling how Americans responded with good and sacrifice that came out of this tragedy. From the firefighters and emergency personnel, to the men and women who put themselves forward for military service – all of whom simply raised their right hand to volunteer to help - America did respond, and in a uniquely American way.

Bill talked about how The Wounded Warrior Project has achieved so much – from successfully helping to lobby the US Government to change the law on compensating the bereaved families of service men and women killed in action, to the setting up of the Brooke Army Medical Center, built with a goal of being the finest facility for rehabilitation for returning soldiers.

But, he admitted, the project's work is never over. Of the 600,000 injured service personnel returning from action, many have lost limbs, and over half have sustained Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).

Strengthened by the resolve to protect his country in the aftermath of 9/11 and the desire to break down the preconceptions of the U.S. Army after the Abu Ghraib atrocities, Capt. Galeazzi signed up to serve his country. On May 26th, 2011, about twenty days from the end of his first tour, Capt. Galeazzi was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), while conducting a dismounted patrol in the Kandahar Province. Before he hit the ground, he had lost both of his legs and severed his right arm. In that moment, he said that he saw the truest form of human nature – that the lowest ranking soldiers ran to his aid and for the 30 minutes it took for the medevac to arrive ensured that he stayed alive.

If there was a primary thought Capt. Galeazzi wanted to share, it was that we didn't need to be 'in the action' to help. He credited the unseen hero that gave the blood he needed to survive his operations; the organizations that helped give his family somewhere to stay; and the people that gave their air miles to the Hero Miles initiative, which helped them to travel across the country to see them. While rehabilitation and readjustment to life outside of the Army is painful, Capt. Galeazzi credited the strength of his family as being his source of hope.

He then took an emotional Q&A from the floor from many AOL employees who were clearly moved by Capt Galleazzi's story. Capt. Galeazzi highlighted the importance for leaders to be open, that it is impossible for any one person to digest the vast amount of information flying about within the work environment. He suggested employees should always rely on their networks – and not to go it alone.

Bill finished by recapping Wounded Warriors' many initiatives, including the Peer-to-Peer mentoring project, which pairs newly returned Vets with those that have come through rehabilitation to act as guides helping them through the process. There will be over one million unemployed veterans returning from action and the best help we can give them is a clear path back into society.

There are many ways you can help. Here are just a few: