Why Do You Do It?

by Ray Bridgeman

Since leaving my banking career and tackling a new frontier; what my friends call my “day job” as the Executive Director of the Bar Association of Lehigh County I’m asked why I still network and connect people the way that I do. Through this journey, I have former clients who have become good friends. They will call me for suggestions of a business person or advice on who to call for a particular situation. The funny question that I get all too often is; do you know an attorney?  Since co-founding Network Magazine, it now makes sense to others, but the real reason I do this is below:

These days we are all guilty of throwing around terms like honor, dedication, courage, and heroes.  We use these terms with our favorite sports team and players. Are these words just overused? I thought so until I had the pleasure of having dinner with someone who I would call a real local Hero, Adam Keys. Although he will disagree with that title, believing the ones who didn’t come home are the true Heroes.

Those of us who have lived in the Lehigh Valley a while think we know the story of Adam Keys and Jesse Reed. These two men joined the Military as part of their patriotic duty.  The nightmare unfolds when an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) changed their lives and three other brave soldiers.  That was only the climax of the story that made the headlines.

In the blink of an eye, four brave soldiers were killed, and one survives at the cost of three of his limbs. One of those soldiers killed that day, was Jesse Reed, Adam’s best friend.  I learned this tragedy was a strange twist of fate for the two of them to be in the same vehicle when they weren’t even in the same platoon. What I thought is, was this some evil irony, or if these two best of friends had to part ways, at least they spent those final hours together? Adam was unconscious for months after the incident. He has had countless years of getting stronger and obstacles to overcome. One of the biggest things has been figuring out a new way of life.  I learned where Adam inherited his sheer fight and courage. His mother Julie stood by him when he was in his coma. Doctors would warn her that he may never recover or ever be the same.  Julie’s “Never Give Up” attitude to keep faith alive for her and Adam has shown through all of this.

I have had the privilege to see Adam at events that recognized his sacrifices. Through these encounters, I had the opportunity to learn bits and pieces of his story. I attempted to involve him with speaking to our organization. I thought it would be a great speech for our Fall Dinner program that recognizes our members who have served in the military around Veteran’s Day.  I would always hear back from Adam; “I wish that I could be there but due to some health situations, I just can’t.”  Those health conditions were hundreds of surgeries that are part of his ongoing rehabilitation.  Finally, either after Adam becoming stronger, or my constant hounding, Adam has agreed to be our Keynote Speaker for the Fall of 2016!

In the Fall of 2015, we had an excellent presentation from Jessica Buchanan and Erik Landemalm, the authors of Impossible Odds. You may remember their story from 2011.  Jessica, teacher by trade, is kidnapped in Somalia and held captive for 93 days in the dessert. Her husband Erik worked behind the scenes to deal with her captors and to keep their family together until Seal Team Six was able to rescue her.  After that presentation, I thought, what if I can link these two up with Adam?

So there I was, in a restaurant watching these two families, Mother and Son, Husband and Wife, completely connecting and relating to each other.  The home struggles and stories shared by Julie Keys and Erik Landemalm. The total admiration of each other’s very different but strangely similar fight in the eyes of such extreme situations. You could tell that Adam and Jessica really connected that night. The open conversations between the two of them about the complete horrific ordeal they both faced. Jessica, sharing some of the most terrifying parts of her story and Adam expanding on the difficulties of dealing with the loss of his best friend and that sheer will to reclaim his life. Hearing Jessica and Erik now settled and have a growing family.  Adam with all the health issues he has faced, living life with the attitude and positivity we should all have. That night was so amazing. When you are a “fly on the wall” and can witness honor, dedication and courage on such a personal level, everything else shrinks in comparison.

It is always great when you connect business people together and help make things happen. But to bring “People” together, even if it is only once in a lifetime and be able to witness a connection that is so amazing and powerful.

That’s why I do it!  

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