The common denominator

In a quest to be the most effective leader I can be, I intentionally surround myself with heroes. Sergeant Edward “Sonny” Fincher is a hero and here’s why.

Sonny Fincher, A.K.A. Sarge, is a 64-year-old white male who was raised in poverty in the inner city of Macon, GA. He dropped out of high school, entered the draft and served in the Vietnam War. The military presented a framework for success that Sarge had never been a part of before. With the new opportunities that were ahead of him, he earned his high school diploma in addition to advanced degrees and enjoyed a rewarding career in the military.

Fast forward post military career.

Sarge became a leader in the Athens, GA community by way of the JROTC program at Cedar Shoals High School. He has developed hundreds of impactful leaders. It’s my pleasure to highlight three leaders who call Sarge “Dad”.

Kelli Stewart is the executive director of L.E.A.D., Inc. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct), an Atlanta based, Pathway2Empowerment, non-profit organization that serves up to 500 Black middle and high school aged males in the Atlanta Public School System. Click here to see the impact of L.E.A.D.

Marieo Foster is Chief of the Law Enforcement Division for the Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. Service to country is the common thread that binds all who are remembered and honored at Arlington. In addition, Marieo has served as a Federal Air Marshal and in various leadership roles within the Department of Defense and The Pentagon. 

Edrick Smith is a warrant officer for the United States Navy.

All of these individuals faced unfortunate challenges on their journey through childhood to adulthood. Challenges that were much more serious than who they were going to take to prom or where they were going for spring break. These challenges often threatened their very survival. So how were they able to overcome and break through their circumstances? What was the common denominator to these individuals’ success? Or better yet, who? 

Sergeant Fincher. 

Left to right: Kelli Stewart, CJ Stewart Marieo Foster, and Sarge
When I asked Sarge how he changed the lives of so many young people, he gave me these absolutes: love, care and chastening. Through these absolutes he was able to impart confidence, earn respect and thus be a person of influence and significance in the lives of hundreds of students. 

As I sat in the Fincher home today and listened to Marieo and Kelli tell stories about their journey with Sarge, and how his influence still guides and empowers them to this day, I felt like I was listening to children recall stories about their father. 

And indeed, I was.