By Jennifer Callaway
“I knew from childhood I was destined to be a soldier.” This statement defines the life of Vince Leone, though it has proven to take more than one shape for him, as he moves from a desert battlefield to a spiritual war, from a human and technological force of magnificent proportions to an invisible army fighting a real but elusive enemy.
Spending eight years in the U.S. Army shaped the man Vince is today. The structure combined with the guidance of men who cared for him caused Vince, the son of an abusive father who continually told him he would never amount to anything, to truly come into his element. The military allowed him to unleash his creativity, finding innovative solutions to strategic challenges. Then came Saddam Hussein, and the Gulf War. The deployment to the desert battlefield, and the mission this young commanding officer and his unit were given, became a defining event for Vince and his future.
“Enemy patrols in our sector were based out of a two story Iraqi intelligence building approximately 6 miles from our location…it wasn’t long before I received the high priority fire mission to destroy the building and all the solders in it ……with one shot.” There was no room for error; too many American lives were at stake. Target set, the shot was fired. Tense moments of waiting passed, and the report came back that the mission was a complete success. The enemy was destroyed, and American lives were saved. This one man, given this one mission, with this one shot, set the course for Vince’s life that still guides him today.
Shortly after he returned from the desert, Vince resigned his commission and looked ahead to God’s next assignment. One thing was clear; his time in the military had given him a calling to somehow help military veterans. “As a combat veteran I’ve always had a deep heart-felt passion for the welfare of our country and the veterans and their family members that have sacrificed so much.” However, it was at this point that limiting beliefs and the overwhelming needs of veterans, combined with the need to support his family detoured Vince’s path.
In the years that followed he explored new possibilities, as he sought to understand the call of God on his life. He tried many different avenues to find the right fit, ministering part-time while working to care for his family. Vince never forgot his desire to help veterans. But by this point his limiting beliefs had become real obstacles.
July 20, 2014 brought a moment of clarity that changed everything. That day in church, “I had an up close and personal encounter with Jesus and my life has never been the same…all my limiting beliefs, my negative tapes and past failures faded into obscurity in the light of His love.” It was time to step onto the battlefield that God had been preparing for him, and he knew it. “Today 8,000 miles away and 20+ years later I’ve received another mission, to lead, and to serve, and once again I may only have one shot…not to kill and destroy this time, but to serve and save hurting and lost veterans.”
So Vince is taking on this new battle. The Halftime Institute, and an offshoot program, the 210 Project, play a pivotal role in his new strategy. When Vince shared his vision with Greg Barnes, President of Halftime Talent Solutions and then with Halftime Institute Founder, Bob Buford, he discovered that the Halftime Institute has been exploring the idea of a Halftime model for military vets. Bob encouraged Vince to go through the Halftime Institute, and Vetstarts was conceived.
Working with a Certified Halftime Coach was a critical component of the process. One exercise, in which he was encouraged to illustrate his vision in pictures rather than words, was particularly helpful. “I thought I had a clear and concise vision of what God is calling me to in this second half. When I tried to get these ideas onto the whiteboard, I discovered that the things I thought were clear became fuzzy…I had to get out of my head and into my heart.” When that shift took place, his mission crystallized.
Vince’s Halftime Coach, Bob Durfey, (also a military veteran), continues to work with him as he takes a leap of faith into starting Vetstarts, a nonprofit coaching program aimed at helping veterans “find their way all the way home, connect with their unique purpose and equip them for a new mission of success and significance.”
How to begin such a massive undertaking? As Vince took the first steps of faith, the perfect low cost probe opportunity presented itself with the Veterans’ Upward Bound, an already-established program on the campus of UT Arlington. The “fit” with Vince’s vision is startling; UTA is fifteen minutes from his home, there are 43,000 students on campus, and the Upward Bound program works with many of the close to 4,000 veterans who come to the university in their quest to build a post-military life. As one of the top 100 veteran friendly schools in the country, it is a gold mine of opportunity for a man willing to reach out to hurting, confused men and women trying to make a change that they are ill-equipped or prepared to accomplish.
The challenges are daunting. Unlike many Halftime candidates, military vets have already been engaged in a significant mission, and the inability to find new significance, identity and purpose drives many to isolation, hopelessness and despair.
Additionally, their physical and invisible war wounds and varied or nonexistent faith traditions mean this task requires a whole new level of creative problem-solving skills. Helping them to untangle the confusion and step into a new life has called Vince to higher levels of strategic coaching as he seeks to give them hope again.
He has his marching orders, but he cannot do it alone. The mission is urgent, and humanly impossible. About 22 veterans every day are taking their own lives. They desperately need help, and though most people are aware of this and want to help, this one man has been tasked to stand in the gap. Will you stand with him?
If you relate to Vince’s Halftime story and want to discover and live out your calling, contact Rhonda Kehlbeck at email@example.com or 972.841.7952. Or fill out our Contact Us form and a member of our team will contact you shortly.