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Amid the business of compliance, a moment of true inspiration

Justin Lansford and Gabe. (Image courtesy of ABC News)I don’t expect to be inspired at compliance conferences. The big name “motivational” speakers don’t move me. I prefer the stories of the everyday hardworking compliance officers.

Thus, I was taken up by a moment of true, unscripted inspiration that happened at the HCCA Annual conference. It caught a hall full of 2,000 compliance professionals by surprise.

“I was a paratrooper in the 82nd airborne in Afghanistan in April 2012. I was in the gun turret when our vehicle hit a road side bomb that flipped the truck completely over.”

So began SSG Justin Lansford. Next to him was his mother, Kimberly Lansford, a nurse, health system chief compliance officer, and a well-known HCCA member. With them was Justin’s golden retriever, Gabe, a special aid dog trained to help wounded soldiers in recovery by opening doors, fetching medicine bottles, and providing companionship. You can see Justin and Gabe here.

Justin explained how he was wounded in combat: “I was trapped underneath the vehicle for more than 30 minutes while my fellow soldiers worked to lift the truck off me. As a result of the explosion, I suffered the loss of my left leg above the knee, crush injuries to my right leg and ankle, a ruptured spleen, damage to my liver and pancreas, two collapsed lungs, a broken back, burns to my right arm, as well as other injuries.”

He spent four months in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center recovering, and then pushed through another two years of physical therapy.

Kim spoke about getting the news from the Army. She also spoke about being contacted by the America’s Fund, a charity supported by the HCCA that helps families of wounded soldiers. America’s Fund told her to drop everything and go be with her son for as long as it would take to save him. They said they would take care of everything else, and they did. Kim flew to Germany immediately and stayed to help nurse Justin back to health.

Justin recovered. He later returned to Germany to see the doctors who saved his life and to thank them. He took up hand-cycling for exercise. He did the Army 10-Miler, Chicago Marathon, and the Boston Marathon. Finishing up a BA and soon to marry his long-time girlfriend, he looks forward to further serving his country. Kim is looking forward, among many things, to a wedding.

Looking at the tall, powerfully-built young man filled with good cheer, next to his smiling mother and with Gabe at his side, it was hard to imagine that they had come through this horrifying experience. Kim and Justin encouraged compliance officers to support the America’s Fund and left the stage.

When asked, Kim, a modest, warm professional, will say she didn’t do anything. She tells us, a group of compliance officers at the conference, that she wants to find ways to give back. We protest that by telling her story, she has already done a lot.

We were all touched, moved to look inside ourselves and say, We can do better. We can find ways to help others and act the right way. If she and Justin did it, so shall we.


Michael Scher is a senior editor of the FCPA Blog. He has over three decades of experience as a senior compliance officer and attorney for international transactions. He can be contacted here.

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