Making the Most of Opportunities

Si Spiegal was born in 1924 in New York City.  When he graduated from high school, he got a job in a machine shop.  World War II had begun and Si enlisted as soon as he turned 18.  He was discouraged at first because he was given a position as an airplane mechanic.  He wanted to be a pilot.  He got his wish and was trained to be a B-17 (the Flying Fortress) pilot.

Mission 33 was the one where he established a legacy as a hidden hero.  On a mission to bomb Berlin, his plane lost two engines.  Knowing that they couldn’t return to England, Si piloted the plane to Poland, which had been liberated by the Russians.  They had hoped to go to Warsaw, but the city was destroyed, and there was no place to land.  A Russian plane showed them the way to a frozen potato field where Si belly landed the huge B-17.

The Russians met them as heroes and took care of them.  While Si and his crew were being honored, they were not allowed to leave.  Meeting up with another American crew, they cannibalized the B-17.  They then repaired the plane of the other crew and took off for Italy.  Si’s family had accepted the fact that he was dead, so imagine their shock when they learned of his arrival in Italy.

After two more missions, Si returned home to a hero’s welcome, still being a first lieutenant.  Anti-Semitism was present in the military, and Jewish soldiers were often denied promotions.  Si had hoped to become a commercial pilot but was again denied because of his faith.

Si eventually landed a job as a mechanic with a brush machine manufacturer.  Brushes were a fad, and the company flourished.  But with all fads, the sales soon ended abruptly.  The company decided to use the brush machines to make components for artificial Christmas trees but was not very successful.  Si was asked to close the factory.  He was able to convince the company to give him a chance to make the Christmas tree factory profitable.  He was given the division to run.  Si was able to make the division more efficient.  Si eventually started his own company which he ultimately sold, and he became very wealthy.  Again, Si made the most of the opportunity available to him.

Hidden heroes are resilient.  They don’t give up easily.  In fact, they look at failures as opportunities.  They see promise when others have given up hope.  They are optimists and also have the ability to convert dreams into realities.

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“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is an opportunity for me to rise.”- Kobe Bryant (NBA Star)

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