Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, third from right, took time out to recognize the Army's 245th Birthday and Flag Day on Friday in Carson City with, from left, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Spaulding, Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, keynote speaker retired 1st Lt. Andy LePeilbet, Brig. Gen. Michael Hanifan and Brig. Gen. Zachary Doser. LePeilbet is a rare Distinguished Service Cross recipient who won the award for his heroic actions in Vietnam in the late 1960s.
LePeilbet speaks at annual Flag Day, U.S. Army birthday ceremony
From the steamy jungles of South Vietnam in the late 1960s to the corporate world, retired Army 1st Lt. Andy LePeilbet studied and implemented the traits of leadership over a lifetime.
As Nevada’s most decorated combat veteran, LePeilbet earned his medals while serving in Vietnam more than 50 years ago as a young soldier. He received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military award behind only the Medal of Honor, he also has two Silver Star awards, a Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.
LePeilbet addressed this year’s Flag Day and the U.S. Army birthday celebration at the Nevada National Guard’s Carson City headquarters, two days before their official recognition on Sunday. The Guard conducted the ceremony in its main classroom and with attendees following social distancing guidelines. The Guard, though, still encourages people to honor the two events on June 14 in a personal way.
LePeilbet gave a background of his military career, first as an enlisted soldier in chemical warfare to attending Officer Candidate School where he became an infantry officer. During both his military and civilian careers, he still considers his Army leadership training to be a great asset.
“One of the things I learned that affected my life was the leadership training,” he said, nodding to the many leaders in attendance for Friday’s ceremony.
In civilian life, LePeilbet rose to vice president of U.S operations and also managing director of internal operations for international corporations. He noted he had managers in all the facilities.
“I didn’t want managers,” he said. “I wanted leaders.”
LePeilbet referenced a field manual he used to hone his leadership skills, first in the Army and then in the corporate world. He said FM-22 was the greatest Army document produced for leadership. As an executive, he said he wanted his leaders to be positive, to think and mentor people and find a way to win. LePeilbet said results count, not what is said.
“Re-read the leadership manual. It’s one of the most incredible documents,” he said, adding the manual will effect everything officers do.
In addition to his leadership positions, LePeilbet has been a community pillar. He joined the United Veterans Legislative Council in 2013 and has actively attended state legislative sessions, testifying and helping provide information to the Nevada Assembly and Senate on legislation affecting Nevada veterans. LePeilbet helped raise funds for the March 2019 Vietnam War Veterans Remembrance Day event held at the Reno Event Center.
Another area dear to LePeilbet’s heart is ensuring veterans will not harm themselves. As a member of a suicide prevention council, he encouraged his audience to check on their buddies and reach out, adding a call may make a difference with their lives.
Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, the adjutant general for the Nevada National Guard, said LePeilbet delivered a message everyone needed to hear. Berry said a hero, such as LePeilbet, faces danger, combats adversity and demonstrates courage.
Pvt. Jesmin Gomez, the youngest enlisted person at the ceremony, provided a history of the U.S. Army as the military service has developed during the past 245 years. She said the Continental Congress created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775, to fight the British. George Washington became the army’s commander.
From its early days as a land warfare Army to the 21st century, Gomez said the modern-day Army is also currently involved with cyber security, intelligence gathering, covert operations and community building. The demographics of the Army has also changed. Gomez said it is more representative of the American population than it was previously.
At the end of the ceremony, Gomez and Brig. Gen. Michael Hanifan, Assistant Adjutant General Nevada Joint Force Headquarters, cut a birthday cake to honor the Army.