• Thomas A. Wilson

Remembering Lt. Col. Anthony Shine

In the 1970s, I wore a POW/MIA bracelet. Like many teens, I joined with the California student group, Voices in Vital America, to ensure that prisoners of war and those missing in action were not forgotten. The person on my bracelet was Maj. Anthony Shine. Many people made a commitment to not remove their bracelet until the named POW/MIA made it home, one way or the other. That’s what Colleen Shine did. She wore her father’s bracelet for 24 years.

Shine was an Air Force pilot, and on December 2, 1972, he went on a mission near the Laos/North Vietnam border. The cloud cover was heavy and Shine notified his wingman that he intended to descend to get a better view of the area. The wingman lost contact and Shine was never heard from again. He was officially listed as missing in action.

Eight-year-old Colleen waited and hoped for news. Weeks later, she helped put away her father’s Christmas presents—storing them for when he returned. And the years ticked by. Colleen grew into adulthood and, still, nothing. The government, certainly limited by finite resources and the nature of bureaucracy, was little help. But Collen kept looking. She went to Vietnam in 1995, explored a crash site with wreckage near where her father’s aircraft disappeared, and discovered—against all odds—a local in possession of a flight helmet inscribed with her father’s name.

Colleen had done it. Inspired to emulate the courage, strength, integrity, and commitment modeled by her father, she solved the mystery of his death. Armed with this information, Ms. Shine approached the government to do a full-scale excavation of the crash site. They did, and the search uncovered traceable serial numbers on the wreckage and human bone fragments. Part numbers and DNA testing confirmed that Captain Anthony Shine (promoted to Major and Lieutenant Colonel while on MIA status) had been found. Lt. Col. Anthony Shine’s remains were repatriated on June 6, 1995. He was interned at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors in October of that year. Colleen finally took off her POW/MIA bracelet. She placed it in her father’s casket.

The Shine family is familiar with service—and sacrifice. Colleen’s grandfather George was an Air Force Colonel. All four of his children served in the US military. One Uncle was wounded in action. Another, like Anthony, appears on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. George and Helen Shine were asked to give more than most—they had two children who made the ultimate sacrifice.

If you’ve read Man School, or this blog with any regularity, then you know that I often reference ancient religious texts. I’m fascinated with why people read something from the distant past when culture and technology have eclipsed the original writer’s worldview by levels of magnitude. Why do these writings endure?

One such text admonishes adherents to let their light shine before men. (A children’s song captures the sentiment of the passage: this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.) One of the original hearers of this prophetic instruction was a man named Peter. He was given the task to lead other people into a lifestyle of so-called light-shining. But he didn’t want to do it.

He, instead, wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. When the local establishment turned against his rabbi, with an armed entourage, Peter found a weapon and he wanted to use it. He was ready to die. Not a professional soldier, his attempt at martial resistance was feeble and embarrassing. Rabbi wasn’t impressed. And that led to the lowest point in Pete’s life—where he disavowed the whole thing.

He would spend the next several decades learning about servant leadership. Like Colleen, he eventually displayed the character traits of the one he lost. And, like his rabbi and Lt. Col. Shine, he, too, gave all.


(L)eadership is always about those who are led. It doesn’t matter if the scope of leadership is work, family, or organization.

Do they have meaningful work? Do they feel like they belong? Do they feel genuinely valued? Do they have a defined area of authority and autonomy? Do they like and understand their roles? Do they enjoy the level of status appropriate to all the above? When leaders answer these questions, in a community where genuine delight, active release, and redemptive engagement are practiced, then they move beyond executive authority and enter the place of moral authority. They move from simply being a boss, or officer, or head of a household and they become mentor, facilitator, and husbandman. They cultivate destiny in others. That’s real leadership.

Affirmation of the Week: Longing to leave a legacy of light, I look for and release the best in others. It’s my mission today—for my family and anyone else I’m privileged to know or meet.

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