John Falkenbury has served as president and chief operating officer for the USO of North Carolina since March 2009. He is responsible for planning, organizing and directing the operations of the state headquarters, five USO fixed centers and a mobile center. These centers provide a full range of services including travel assistance, deployment and homecoming operations, critical transition assistance, financial and educational programs, military and civilian community outreach programs, Fallen and Wounded Warrior escort services and extensive morale-boosting activities.
The Concord, North Carolina resident previously served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army with assignments throughout the United States and in Germany. He also established and operated the first North Carolina division of Fleishman-Hillard International Communications.
An adjunct faculty member in the University of North Carolina’s Charlotte Department of Communication Studies, an on-air military analyst for WBT-AM and a credentialed military consultant and frequent guest for News 14 Carolina also adorns his resume.
The third generation career military officer received a bachelor’s degree in history from The Citadel and earned his master’s degree in management from Webster University. In addition, he is a graduate from the Defense Information School, the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
He currently serves on the board of The Brigadier Foundation and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at The Citadel, and the Carolinas Freedom Foundation’s Advisory Board. He has been married to his wife, Barbara, for 32 years and is the father of Jamey and Catherine.
Q&A with John
What is the best lesson from college that still applies to your job? Honesty and integrity are not compromised for any reason.
What is the best career advice you ever received? Do what you have a passion to do and do it well.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? Personal accomplishment is having a great family with children that are successful and doing what they love. Professionally, being given the opportunity to successfully lead an organization during a period of great need and rapid growth.
What is the biggest myth about your job? We are funded by the national USO or are a federal agency when in reality, we are a separately-funded nonprofit organization; not funded by either national USO or the government.
What is the insider secret to your job? While it requires a lot of driving the state, living out of a suitcase and constantly seeking new corporate partners, the reward of helping our troops and families and hearing them say thanks is humbling.
What is the best part of your job? My staff, our volunteers and the military that we serve. They are the best and they do it will little or no fanfare.
Why did you choose your career path? I retired in 1999, two years before 9-11. I had many friends that have been at war for 13 years and I was not there. While I did many media engagements to make sure people knew what their military was doing, I wanted to do something that was directly supporting our warriors and their families.
What has been your best mistake? Not taking a second command of an Army unit. If I had, I would have missed experiences like training in one of the nation’s biggest PR firms while an Army major or attending the Marine Command and Staff College.
What is the best part of working with JHE? JHE is passionate and professional. They look for ways to make sure events are top notch and on budget. They are always prepared and have thought out the delivery of their services so it is seamlessly executed.
What has most impressed you about JHE? Their people.
What is your best tip for success? Do what you love, do it to the best of your ability and take care of those working for or with you. If you do, it will be a success.
What is your personal definition of success? Establishing a vision and goal for an organization and seeing it come to a fruition that is sustainable, impactful and accepted by staff, those served and those in the community.
Things you may not know about John:
My runner-up career was … a history professor; we must learn from the past or, as was said, we are doomed to repeat it. Liberal arts give tools in critical writing, research and analysis.
My ultimate stress reliever is … watching old black and white movies from the 1930’s and ‘40’s.
On my iPod playlist right now is … Sycamore Row by John Grisham and classic ‘60’s and ‘80’s artists.
The one person I’ve always wanted to meet is … General George Patton. Controversial and charismatic leader; I have been fascinated by his life and enjoy learning more about him.
My family is … most important to me.
My favorite sport is … Can’t have just one in a state that is home to the best college basketball and the Carolina Panthers. But since I’m 5’19” tall (6’7” for those that can add), I lean toward college basketball. Go Duke.
I don’t leave home without … my iPad and iPhone.
My most recent splurge was … a new 27-inch Apple iMac.
My favorite vacation yet was … that’s a tough one … as a family, it is our vacation to Rome, Florence, Tuscany and Venice before the children graduated college. But the most special vacation was an Alaskan cruise for my 30th anniversary.
My favorite movie is … It’s a Wonderful Life.
My compelling TV binge is … Downton Abbey, Sherlock and Mr. Selfridge.
My favorite quote is … “Duty is the sublimest word in the English Language.” -Gen. Robert E. Lee
The best concert I’ve ever seen is … Billy Joel in Raleigh last year. I’ve been a fan for years and second time to see him live.
Keep up with John on Twitter @USONC.