Richard Pimentel – Believe in Someone

Veteran and all-round hero Richard Pimentel shares how his grandmother’s words, decades later, predicted a future he never imagined.


I was so scared.

I was eight years old. I hid behind my grandmother. Back in the days of food stamps, I remember we went to the store and we were getting these groceries and grandma was taking these little coupons off and giving them to the clerk and this man looked over and very loudly said, “Will you look at that?” “Will you look at all that good food that woman has? “My family doesn’t have good food like that.” And he says, “And I’m paying for that, old woman.” “How are you ever gonna pay me back “for all I’ve done for you? “How are you ever gonna pay society back “for everything that we have done for you?”

My grandmother pulled me out from behind her and she put her hands on my shoulders and here’s what she said. “I will never be able to pay you back. “I will never be able to pay society back. “But do you see this child? “Some day, this child will pay you back “in ways that you cannot imagine.”

I didn’t believe her then, but she believed in me. I learned leadership by being a good follower.

The leaders in my life have asked me to do some of the most difficult things. I had a leader that asked me to risk my life in Vietnam. We were up on this hill and we were trapped and we were outnumbered 20 to one. They were coming up to kill us. And they radioed us and said, “Uh, you’re gonna die ’cause we can’t get to you “’cause of the fog, but if we blow up half the hill, “you can go down that half and get away. “But we need five of you to stay back “and slow up the enemy so they don’t flank “the ones that are escaping.”

Really? Who would that be? And Sergeant Parker came to us and he said, “We have to do this.” I said, “We what?” He says, “It’s our responsibility.” I said, “Responsibility?” He said, “You know what responsibility is, Richard?” “It’s a word made up of two words, “the word response and the word ability.

“Responsibility isn’t what someone puts on you. “Responsibility isn’t your job description. “Responsibility isn’t a paper you sign. “We all find ourselves looking at situations “and we all find ourselves with abilities “and what we have to ask is, given my abilities, “what then will be my response to those abilities?

“Do we have the ability to slow them up? “Do we have the ability to save these lives? “We do, so what is our response?”

I had a leader who talked me into never retiring and working till the day I die.

We adopted four little disabled girls in December, ages nine to four. I’m 66 years old. This was not my idea for my golden years.

But they were gonna split them all up if we didn’t take them. We were the only ones who could take them. And I asked my wife, “Why do you think we should do this?” And she looked at me and she said, “It’s our responsibility.”

And did we have the ability to do it? Yeah. And what was our response to that ability? To do it.

What abilities do you have? And more importantly, what is your response?

I have a little assignment. I want you to think about it. I want you to go out, I want you to find three people on Monday, and I want you to get three people to believe in you.

On Friday, I want you to go out and I want you to get three people to believe in themselves.

I want you to ask yourself this question. Did I feel more like the leader I want to be on Monday or did I feel more like the leader I want to be on Friday?

Leaders do not get people to believe in them. Leaders find ways to get people to believe in themselves.

This year, believe in somebody. And my friends, how will these people pay you back for all you’ve done for them? I’ll tell you how they will pay you back, in ways that you cannot imagine.