BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Brian Thompson embodies a quote from Donald Walters who once said, “Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance.” Thompson is a leader who would rather than identify himself with his title; would rather be identified with the people he serves.
Brian is retired from the Army where he served in the infantry platoon. He served our country selflessly for 20 years and finished his last tour of duty in 2004-2005. “I was stationed all over the world and it brought such pride knowing I was serving my country,” recalled Brian. He signed up originally thinking he might fulfill his contract, but the longer he was serving, he loved it. “The brotherhood and service is what meant so much to me. It means a lot,” says Brian. After retiring from the Army, Brian came back to Mena, wondering what the next step was. In the mean time, Brian spent time focusing on his family that he is extremely proud of. He spoke with such pride as he talked about his kids, “We have 6 kids and now 5 grandkids. It’s great.”
As grateful as Brian was to return to family, he felt an absence in his life. “I was used to serving and wanted to continue,” recalls Brian. After coming back to Mena Brian became a member of the local Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks, where he now serves as the Exalted Ruler. With gratefulness in his voice, Brian said, “It’s hard when you come back from serving your country. It can be difficult to adjust. A lot of people say they want to help veterans, but I felt like the Elks really meant it.” Years later and Brian is still serving, but rather than serving the country as a whole, he is serving Polk County. ‘This is filling the gap I had in time and it gave me a ‘service to others’ that I missed,” recalls Brian.
The BPOE was established in 1868 and began its mission to build stronger communities. With more than 850,000 members the BPOE continues to grow nationwide. Brian expressed great pride in what the Elks is doing and more specifically, what he is doing. “We are able to meet real needs in this community. There are family needs that we can help fulfill, whether that is a food drive, or helping with Toys for Tots like we are now.” Brian told me that the Elks live by four components: brotherly love, justice, charity, and fidelity. When you talk to Brian, it becomes clear that these aren’t just principles the Elks live by, but things that are embodied in everything Brian does. Brian said, “We need to come to each other with a servant’s heart, believe in what you’re doing, and when you believe in what you’re doing it’s not work anymore.”
His heart for the community spills out as he talks about the needs of families, students, and others in the community. “When I go home and look in the mirror, I honestly feel like I can say that I’m making a difference in Polk County. That drives me,” says Brian.
Brian’s desire to serve is something he has tried to pass along to his family, “My girls have been helping with things the past 6 years. They have helped with fundraisers and food drives.” His enthusiasm for the community is evident. With a big smile he said, “On December 16th the Elks is going to Holly Harshman and we are making a 50ft ice cream sundae for the students of the month. It is going to be awesome, I can’t wait.” Brian repeatedly talked about service, “It is more than a pat on the back, it’s pride in the work that’s done here.”
Brian Thompson clearly embodies what President Harry S. Truman said about servant leaders, “It is amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.”