Profiles in Leadership . . . Sgt. Pete Segundo

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

It’s strange how some people you meet come and go without a second thought, while others stay in your mind forever, even if you never see them again.  Somehow in that brief period of time you were together they touched you deeply in a way that formed a permanent connection of spirit to spirit.  One of those special connections was a classmate I met during my senior year at Arroyo Grande high school.  During that year it was evident he was a young leader, and what I have subsequently learned makes me even more certain that Pete Segundo was special.

I changed high schools my senior year, going from a very small town in Northern California with a total of 200 in my school to a much larger community along the central California coast with close to 200 hundred kids in my senior class alone! It was a big and scary change for me, but I dove into sports (football and baseball) as well as music (high school band and jazz band), as well as academics, making new friends, and of course surfing (it was the Beach Boys era, 1965-66 in California).

Anyway, on the first day of varsity football practice I was paired up with another linebacker who lived his whole life in the area and played varsity for the past two years.  He was a latino kid from a moderate family.  My father was the school administrator and on the surface we didn’t have much in common.  But Pete had a competitive fire and infectious laugh that I couldn’t resist and together we made a very effective defensive team.  And Pete was one of the team captains, not only leading the defence but also the team, especially when we were getting beaten, which happened quite a lot that year.

To tell you what kind of spirit resided inside of Pete, he broke his arm during the middle of the season, but played the rest of the football games with a cast on, and I never once heard him complain or wince. Pete and I also wound up on the varsity baseball team that spring, where as a team we did much better.

At the end of the baseball season came graduation and I was headed off to the University of California on an academic scholarship and Pete was headed for the US Marines and Vietnam.  I never saw Pete again, but I never forgot him either.  Even today, some 45 years later, when things get a little down for me I often say to myself, I need to be more like Pete, and pick myself up again.

Sargent Peter S. Segundo was in the Dog Handler unit in Vietnam where a marine would work with a dog on forward patrols.  The dogs were specially trained and it was not unusual for the dog and handler to detect mines and booby traps, or an enemy ambush before it happened.  Pete won several bronze stars for saving the lives of his teams while on patrol.  He also lost two dogs during the process.

Pete Segundo was killed on September 5th, 1969 during his third tour of duty in South Vietnam. He was on perimeter check at night with his dog Jocko and was accidentally shot by a fellow marine. Nighttime in South Vietnam was a scary place where stupid things happened. Pete’s death was a senseless tragedy.

Pete loved the Marines and loved his dogs and led his teams on patrols with courage and confidence into hostile places.  His role was to protect his team, and he did an outstanding job. He did the same on our football and baseball teams.

In the short time period of one school year Pete showed me what real leadership was about and I will alway be thankful, and I will never forget.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E | john@johnrchildress.com      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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13 Responses to Profiles in Leadership . . . Sgt. Pete Segundo

  1. Jim Gregory says:

    As bizarre as it may seem (us History Majors like cemeteries almost as much as English Majors like coffeehouses), I’d like to say two nice things about the Arroyo Grande District Cemetery:

    1. One day a couple years ago, I casually mentioned to a groundskeeper with a cool handlebar mustache that my Dad had been a World War II vet, and the next Memorial Day, for the first time, a flag appeared on his grave and there’s been one there every holiday since. That means a lot.

    2. Yesterday a repairman held a sprinkler-head in midstream (getting wet in the process) long enough for me to put new flowers on my Mom’s grave. I believe the term is “random act of kindness.”

    When I visit my folks, I always make it a point to visit, for those of you who remember him from AGHS, Pete Segundo, who’s just a few feet away. I didn’t know him, but you want someone like him–a Marine dog handler, killed in Vietnam–to know how much the gift of his life means.

    I make sure to mention him and to show the names of his South County comrades every time I teach Vietnam to my kids. Semper fi, Pete.

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    • Thanks for the comment, Jim. Pete was very welcoming to me in 1965 when I turned up as a new senior to try out for the AG football team. We played linebacker together that entire season. He was an inspiration to all of us.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Well first i want to say i am sorry your your loss, i want to thank you for visiting my brothers grave site, and i give credit to Mr John Childress a fellow arroyo Grande student who went to school with my brother.Jim i just want to say thanks, for your thoughts, he will never be forgotten. god bless you and your family and for your kindness, Esther Segundo Fowler former U.S. Womens Army.

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  2. Melody says:

    Amazing person. Glad you shared this story with us. I graduated a few years after Pete and never met or knew him, but he sounded like a remarkable person.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Pete was classmate…..with his character, if not for the war,…….what could have been..?.??

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    • THANK YOU ESTHER SEGUNDO FOWLER
      THANK YOU HE WOULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT FOOT BALL PLAYER WITH THE BEST. WE GOT TO SEE EACH THE NIGHT BEFORE HE LEFT FOR VIET NAM I WAS AT THE BROWNS HOTEL IN LOS ANGELES, HE GOT A SPECIAL PASS TO COME SEE ME AND SAY OUR GOOD BYES SEPT. 18, 1968. I WENT IN TO THE ARMY THE SAME DAY HE WENT TO VIET NAM, I HAD A HEAVY HEART BUT HE HAD A JOB TO DO AND SO DID I, HE WAS AN M.P., FUNNY THING SO WAS I! WE JOKED ABOUT IT IN OUR LETTERS, HE NEVER SPOKE OF BAD THINGS, BUT I KNEW WHAT GOING ON IN VIET NAM, JERRY ELLIS AND I FOUND EACH OTHER ON F/B HE CAME TO VISIT ME, HE TOLD ME HE MET UP WITH PETE IN NAM, AND SPOKE TO HIM ABOUT NOT GOING IN HOSTEL GROUNDS IT WAS BAD, HE SAID I LL SEE YOU AGAIN. BUT WAS MY BROTHER LOOKING IN THE BRIGHT SIDE.BEFORE THE END HE DID SAY HE HAD NOTHING AGAINST THE PEOPLE, BUT DID NOT LIKE WHAT THEY WERE DOING THERE. WE ALL HATE WAR BUT ITS BECAUSE WE ARE FREE AND PAY A TOTAL OF GOOD MEN AND WOMEN FIGHTING FOR WHAT WE WANT THAT”S OUR FREEDOM. A’LOT TAKE FOR GRANTED. WE SHOULD NEVER FOR GET OUR MEN AND WOMEN, THANK YOU FOR SERVACE. GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

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  4. Pingback: Vietnam. Again, and Always. « Will this be on the test?

    • Anonymous says:

      THANK YOU JOHN. ESTHER SEGUNDO FOWLER.
      HE WOULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT FOOT BALL PLAYER AND WOULD HAVE GONE A LONG WAY WITH FOOT BALL. THANK YOU ALL FOR REMEMBERING PETE, I DON”T COME ON MUCH ON THIS SITE, BECAUSE IT MAKES ME REMEMBER SO MANY THINGS GO THROUGH MY MIND, SOME GREAT, AND SOME SAD. HE WILL ALWAYS BE MY HERO MY ONLY BROTHER. I WAKE UP EVERY DAY THINKING OF HIM AND GO TO SLEEP THINKING OF HIM, BUT NOT NOW BROTHER, I WILL BE SEEING SOME TIME SOON, AND MOM AND DAD.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I went to school with Pete. Have thought about him, many times …. over the years. I was very suprised to find this story. I had no idea, he was on a third tour, while I was playing on the beach. He was …. everything, you said …. about him.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I WISH I KNEW YOUR NAME, I SPENT A LOT OF TIME AT PISMO BEACH, MY BROTHER, CAME TO THE BROWNS HOTEL IN LOS ANGELES, HE GOT A SPECIAL PASS, TO SAY GOOD BYE FOR THE LAST TIME, BECAUSE I WAS GOING IN THE ARMY, THE NEXT DAY, AND HE WAS GOING TO VIET NAM THE NEXT DAY SEPTEMBER 18, 1969, HE AND I LEFT, I HAD A BROKEN HEART,HE NEVER COMPLAINED IN HIS LETTERS ALWAYS, CHEERFUL NEVER SPOKE ABOUT BAD THINGS, TOWARD THE END HE SAID HE NOTHING AGAINST THE PEOPLE, HE JUST DID NOT LIKE WHAT THEY WERE DOING THERE. LET US REMEMBER PETE AND HIS FELLOW MARINES, AND ALL THE MEN, AND WOMEN WHO SERVED OUR COUNTRY WE WERE BLESSED TO BE FREE, THANK YOU ALL , AND GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

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    • THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH ESTHER SEGUNDO FOWLER

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