With parades and flags being flown in honor of Veterans Day on Wednesday, November 11, the Center for BrainHealth‘s Legacy Award Dinner at the Brook Hollow Golf Club saluted former U.S. Navy SEAL Clint Bruce. Here is a report from the field:
On Veterans Day the Center for BrainHealth grandly showcased that brains and brawn really do go together. As the last place setting was perfectly positioned in a room adorned with masculine shades of gold floral designed by the one-and-only Junior Villanueva of The Garden Gate, 250 brain health advocates began to trickle into Brook Hollow Golf Club in celebration of former U.S. Navy SEAL Clint Bruce, this year’s Center for BrainHealth’s Legacy Award recipient. When this charismatic veteran and former NFL player enters a room, people notice. As retired U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. Morgan Luttrell says, “You either stand up with a smile on your face, or you jump up and give him a hug.”
All eyes turned to the man of the hour as he strutted through the doors clad in a kilt crafted from the family tartan and knee high socks that he dapperly complimented with a bold buckle and his distinguished beard – clearly not a “Movember” only accessory. Naturally, the dinner invitation called for “business formal attire,” but when his friends dared him to go rogue, he didn’t back down.
With a large American flag hanging behind him on stage, Bruce explained his attire. “I thought this was called the ‘Leg You See’ Award, but you all meant ‘Leg-a-cy.’ I get it now. I really do have the best knee caps, and I just wanted to give you all the opportunity to see them.”
Bruce hugged and greeted the Center’s founder and chief director Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD., Brain Performance Institute executive director Eric Bennett, and members of his personally selected Warrior Host Committee that included retired military officers and enlisted personnel from three different branches of service as well as a handful of Navy SEALS, Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force veterans.
As the dinner bell rang about a quarter after 7 p.m., stylish philanthropists including co-chairs Carolyn Perot Rathjen, Dr. Karl Rathjen, Sue and Pryor Blackwell and guests Betsy and Richard Eiseman Jr., Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones, Kelly Hoglund Compton and sister Kristy Hoglund Robinson filed into the ballroom to hear co-chair Pryor Blackwell begin the evening. He, of course, thanked everyone for attending and recognized host committee members Lucy and Henry Billingsley, Debbie and Jim Francis, Kate and Hunter Henry, Lyda Hill, Charlyn and Rob Holmes, Margot and Ross Perot, Michal and Loyd Powell, Patrick B. Sands, Jane and Bud Smith, Marianne and Roger Staubach, Mary and Mike Terry, Lisa and Kenny Troutt, Heather and Ray Washburne. He then asked the Warrior Host Committee to stand and be recognized. Moments later, he called for all active duty service members and veterans to join the committee and a roaring round of applause ensued.
Blackwell welcomed the guest of honor and explained that Bruce had tragically lost his father during when Bruce was in high school. In one of the most moving moments of the evening, Blackwell asked the crowd, “If you are a father or, one day, you hope to be a father, will you please stand if you think Clint’s dad is proud of him?”
Dr. Rathjen then gave the invocation and . Once the table chatter began to subside, Center for BrainHealth advisory board vice chair Joel Robuck headed to the stage and asked past Legacy Award Recipients Lyda Hill (2014), Jane and Bud Smith (2013), Daryl Johnston and Lee Roy Jordan (2012), Dee Wyly (2011), James Huffines (2010), T. Boone Pickens (2009), Debbie Francis (2008), and Dianne Cash (2006) to stand and be honored.
“Where’s Boone?” Robuck asked, pointing out the energy entrepreneur in the crowd. “The only reason T. Boone is here is because there’s no Oklahoma State University game on. And,” he continued, in a playful effort to explain the absence of two past award recipients. “Daryl [Johnston] and Lee Roy [Jordan], well they’ve been drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.”
He discussed the history of the Center for BrainHealth and recounted last month’s monumental groundbreaking for the Center’s new clinical arm, the Brain Performance Institute.
“Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman founded the Center in 1999 and since then it has continued to grow and flourish, focused on leading innovative and transformative brain research, improving lives today and changing how we as the public think and act about our most vital organ, the brain,” Robuck said. “Most scientists focus on what is wrong with the brain. But, at the Center for BrainHealth, what is wrong is just one starting point. We want to focus on cognitive solutions.”
“If you were to cross a Texas high school football coach and a southern Baptist preacher, you would get Bruce,” Holley said of his 20-year buddy.
A video featuring “Beef”, a Navy SEAL and one of Bruce’s closest friends who was unable to attend the dinner, congratulated Bruce, saying, “This is just as much Aimee’s award as it is yours. The fact that she’s still married to you is proof that love is blind.” Bruce’s gorgeous spouse who had been by his side all evening chuckled with the rest of the room.
After Bruce’s first visit to the Center for BrainHealth in 2011, he was inspired to write a letter to the leaders of the organization. That letter was a pivotal point in the organization’s history, transforming the Center’s presence in the veteran space. The clever BrainHealth team translated that letter into a video montage of faces and voices that gave the entire room goose bumps.
Bruce’s most profound words, “You can leave a legacy with a name on a building, you can leave a legacy with a name on a stadium, or a door or some invention, or you can leave a legacy with someone.”
Bennett took the stage and told a story about his first encounter with Bruce in which he asked, “Clint, how do you know [the brain training] really helped you?” Bruce’s response, “Ask my little girl, and she can tell you how it helped me. Ask my wife, and she can tell you how it helped me.”
Bennett turned the mic over to Dr. Chapman who recalled some of Clint Bruce’s first words of advice to her regarding working with service member. He said, “Ma’am you can’t call us all soldiers. If you call a Navy guy a soldier, none of them will come.”
Chapman acknowledged her friend, Clint, as their spiritual leader who has a duty driven by a higher power. “He calls me the Jedi, but we are training with Clint because he’s the Obi-Wan Kenobi. Thank you, Clint Bruce for teaching us the way of the Jedi.”
The two embraced and Bruce corrected her, saying, “I am more of a Chewbacca than an Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
The Navy SEAL’s captivating words challenged every person in the room to reflect on their lives, their priorities, their goals and their legacy.
“I don’t remember much about the day they buried my father. What they said about my father is that he used his time to honor his Christ,” Bruce said. “How will you use your time? Will it be about the small things or will it be about the mighty things? We are the ‘not done’ kind. Words are not about you. They are about the things you do.”
He recognized the handful of Vietnam veterans in the room and apologized to them, for when they returned home, they did not receive the same words of gratitude, appreciation and welcome that Bruce and his fellow warriors did.
Bruce concluded his remarks with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”
After an extended and much deserved standing ovation, Bennett closed out the night thanking the hundreds of attendees.
* Photo credit: Grant Miller