Veteran shares keys to reaching dreams at Carmel ceremony

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Retired U.S. Air Force Major Matt Modleski shared several lessons learned through his military career as the keynote speaker for the City of Carmel’s Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 10 at The Tarkington at Center for the Performing Arts. The theme of the ceremony was “Freedom is never free.”

Modleski said he grew up in upstate New York with the dream of flying jets.

“When you join the military as an enlisted member at age 17, that seems like a pretty big dream,” said Modleski, who has lived in Noblesville for seven years after living 10 years in Carmel. “The first lesson is if you are pursuing something big in life, you are going to fail at it. You are not going to fail just once; you are going to fail several times.”

Modleski’s eyesight caused him to fail his first physical, but he passed the second time. He was rejected for officer training school the first time, but he made it the second time.

The first time he applied for the Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration, he got rejected as well.

“Your life and your character (are) not shaped by the number of times you fail. Your character is absolutely shaped by how you respond,” Modleski said. “Life isn’t fair is an absolute given.”

The second lesson Modleski shared is that the military is a diverse organization.

“There are people from all across life that have a different opinion than me, have a different perspective than me, maybe a different set of beliefs than me,” he said. “In a free country, we should be able to speak those beliefs freely. If one of those problems angers and insults me, that’s actually my problem, not theirs.”

The third lesson came from Modleski’s officer training school, where participants were asked to create a sheet with their dreams turned into specific, obtainable and realistic objectives.

“When they made us do that, it changed my life,” he said. “It made me think through my career and start putting a plan together, not just my career but what married life would be like. The lesson for me is that a dream in your head is a dream. A dream on paper is the start of a plan. Plans well executed will achieve extremely good results, no matter where you are going. Put the dreams on paper and hold yourself accountable to the steps you put down, you’ll be surprised at how many things it helps you achieve.”

Modleski’s dream was to fly a Thunderbird, and after 15 years he had that opportunity as a member of the Thunderbirds demonstration team during the mid-1990s.

Modleski, who retired from the Air Force in September 2000, is now Orchard Software’s executive vice president of corporate/business development.

Although he retired more than 20 years ago, he said his best friends are still his veteran friends.

“I’m sure for some of the veterans here in attendance it’s the same,” he said. “In fact, as soon as I finish here, I’m going to go to a reunion with military friends. Then I’m going to turn around and fly to the East Coast and be the officiant for two Marines getting married this weekend.”


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