Dick Strong, meet Mel Gibson.
The chairman of Strong Financial Services gets around, in May visiting the California set of "We Were Soldiers," in which Mr. Gibson stars. Mr. Strong's visit was the result of his friendship with Harold "Hal" Moore, the retired three-star U.S. Army general on whose book the Paramount Pictures film is based.
Mr. Strong was introduced to the book "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young: Ia Drang - The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam" in 1999 by a friend. It had such an impact on Mr. Strong that he invited Gen. Moore, who co-wrote the book with journalist Joseph Galloway, to speak to Strong employees in December 1999. For 14 years, the firm has invited prominent figures from all walks of life to the home office in Menomonee Falls, Wis., to address Strong employees. Past invitees have included heads of state and Nobel Prize winners including then-secretary of defense Dick Cheney, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, scientist Jane Goodall, and Olympic speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen.
"I just had so much respect for the man and his values," Mr. Strong said of Gen. Moore, adding the book expounds on perseverance, loyalty, determination and curiosity. Mr. Strong said he wanted Gen. Moore to speak to Strong employees so they might learn how to apply those values in their professional lives.
The friendship is still active: Mr. Strong said he talks to Gen. Moore almost every day.
Gen. Moore and his wife visited with Strong employees a second time, traveling with Mr. Strong, his wife, and a group of 12 employees to Vietnam and Cambodia in 2001 for a weeklong trip. The travelers visited battle sites and learned about the history of warfare in the two countries. Mr. Strong said the most important lesson he took away from that trip was "how important detail is in making good decisions."
Mr. Strong also contributed to the success of "We Were Soldiers," which earned $40.5 million in its first two weeks at the box office: he has seen the film five times.