Service Without Recognition

  • Published
  • By SSgt Nate Vandenberg
  • 151st ARW/HC
As military members, much of our work goes unseen or unnoticed by the public. We need to keep in mind our goals and why we do what we do. Until then, we risk losing sight of our purpose and our part in the mission.

I recently watched a documentary about a man named Kevin Clash. He was born to a poor family in Baltimore in 1960. In this film, he is shown walking down busy streets crowded with people. They all pass by him without giving a second thought to his existence, even though he has been a part of their lives since they were small children.

As a child, Kevin had a huge fascination with puppetry. He made his own puppets and had a collection of over 80 of them by the time he graduated high school. His lifetime goal of working with Jim Henson's Muppets came to fruition in 1979 when he was asked to be part of the Sesame Street float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

While working one day in 1984, a fellow puppeteer named Richard Hunt became frustrated with a little red Muppet that he just couldn't find the inspiration to bring to life. He tossed it aside and Kevin started controlling it and said, in a high falsetto voice, "Hello, this is Elmo!" Elmo has since received worldwide fame. He is represented in dozens of countries by at least 11 names and languages.

I was so inspired by this man's story. Kevin is perfectly happy being the voice and movement behind Elmo. Elmo is rarely seen with his puppeteer at the same time. It really taught me that even though you don't always get recognition for the hard work you do in life, you can still touch and change lives. Although much of what we do is not seen, it does not make it invisible.