As I stood in the airport security line at the Denver airport a couple of months ago, a young man standing on two artificial limbs joined the back of the line. The people in line immediately recognized him as a veteran and invited him to move ahead of them. Before long, he caught everyone’s attention, and as the crowd cheered he moved to the head of the line. I saw tears in his eyes as he passed me and my emotions surged to the surface. I have thought about that moment several times since, and as we approach another Veteran’s Day, it has reminded me of all the people in the cable industry who started their career in the military.
Among the many stories in our collection, Bill Daniels stands out as an archetype for his generation. Daniels graduated from the New Mexico Military Academy and immediately entered the U. S. Navy to go to flight school. He graduated in December 1941, just two weeks after Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II. His first missions took him to North Africa and then he was shipped to the Pacific. He flew hundreds of missions during the war and spent time land-based in the Solomon Islands and then on an aircraft carrier learning to fly and land at night with no lights.
In 1943, he was assigned to the newly commissioned USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier that would have a very distinguished record of service, especially during the battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. On November 1944, two kamikaze planes crashed into the Intrepid and exploded below the flight deck. Daniels, who was two levels below the flight deck, went into the firestorm where he found a man severely wounded and trapped by debris. According to the book “The Life &Legacy of Bill Daniels,” he applied a tourniquet to one leg and amputated the other to save the man’s life. He went back to carry away several other men and the Navy awarded him the Bronze Star for his actions that day. He carried these and other horrendous memories of the war with him for the rest of his life.
Daniels left the Navy in late 1945, and together with his brother who was also in the Navy worked in his father’s insurance business in New Mexico. In 1950, the military knocked on his door for the Korean War and he found himself flying jets from an aircraft carrier once again. After two years he returned to the insurance business, but his brother was in firm control and Bill decided to move on. He started a new insurance business in Casper, Wyoming, and on his way through Denver one night, he saw his first television at Murphy’s Bar. It was an encounter that would change his life and cable television history.
Bill Daniels passed away on March 7, 2000, after an amazing career in the cable business. His legacy lives on through The Daniels Fund, which quickly became the largest charitable foundation in Colorado at $1 billion. Daniels said that he never measured success by the amount of money one had accumulated, but by the amount one had given away. When you walk through the front doors of The Cable Center, you are entering the Daniels Great Hall. We work closely with the Daniels College of Business at The University of Denver. If you ever get to Washington D.C., stop and see the display about Bill Daniels at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
Certainly, Daniels’ military experiences shaped his future as it has for all of us who were in the military. It strikes me that the leadership, management and technical skills taught by the military are very appropriate for the cable business today. In addition, both the military and the cable business are on the cutting-edge of technology, so veterans are a natural fit for any mission-driven organization looking for people with a record of success. I would ask you to remember our veterans on this special day, and to my fellow veterans, I thank you for your service to our country.
(Larry Satkowiak is president and CEO of The Cable Center, the nonprofit educational arm of the cable industry. The Center preserves cable’s enduring contributions to society, strengthens relationships between cable and academia and unites the industry around the advancement of exceptional customer service. www.cablecenter.org)