I just realized that my only contribution to this worthy thread was editorial. That sucks, so here's an on-topic contribution:
My mom was my biggest influence. She had a truly horrific childhood. Not unique, for sure, but horrific, nonetheless. Despite this, she had the ability to see the world clearly, evaluate what she saw unemotionally, and do the right thing, no matter how it might affect her personally. That's the one quality that I have tried most to emulate throughout my adult life. Mom was a full citizen of the Creek Nation, and intensely proud of her native american hereitage, and so am I (proud, not a citizen because, although I am also eligible, my oath is to the COTUS.) May you ever walk in beauty, Mother.
Next would be my great-uncle, MG Raymond O. "Tubby" Barton, USMA '12, CG of 4th Infantry Div from Utah Beach through the Battle of the Huertgen Forest, after which he was retired for a bleeding ulcer. During that time, he became a lifelong close friend of Ernest Hemmingway. RIP, Uncle Tubby!
My mom's father, Tubby's younger brother, was murdered just before mom was born, and Tubby assumed responsibility for being the male protector of his niece and her offspring throughout his remaining life, and he, not my dad (also a USMA grad, in his case, '38) provided me the help I needed to obtain my appointment to the Point. Tubby taught me to drive, took me fishing (his health was not up to taking me hunting, but my dad took care of that from about age 6 until I was out on my own.) The most valuable lessons that Tubby taught me, and which I always endeavored to emulate, were about leadership, and while those were invaluable, the way he taught by sharing information made an indelible impression on me. He taught me to criticize a man's actions, not his person. He taught me that an officer's role is to Lead, Command, Supervise, and maybe most importantly, Shield his men from the bullshit that flows downhill; that is, when something goes wrong in the unit, the Commander takes the responsibility and the heat for the unit (and deals with any other internal matters resulting from that, internally). Since this is not a book, that's enough here.
Two of the finest soldiers I personally served with. The first was my first First Shirt when I was a new Shavetail, George I. Hawthorne, RIP. George tested me on the day I arrived at the unit, and when I passed his test, he took the role of mentor to this fresh young butterbar. I like to think he did a good job, but that's an open question. Nonetheless, his unrelenting messing with me in his good natured (and deadly serious) way both kept me on my toes and kept my focus on my function as leader and roll-model for my own troops. We became like father and son, and I treasured my friendship with George until his death in '96.
My First Shirt when I became a Battery Commander, Easton J. Ardoin taught me more about attention to detail that any other influence previous, and gave me a doctorate in working a large bureaucratic institution to your own ends. The education he gave me proved invaluable in my later career with NOAA, and I could hardly have been more fortunate. Thanks to him, I never lost any dispute with the entrenched bureaucracy, especially the HR, IT and procurement obstructionists.
His friendship and mine endured until his death a year after our last meeting in mid-'07. He was a most remarkable man, and it was my remarkably good fortune to have served with him. RIP, old friend, and thank you for all you've done for me in teaching me so well!