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Expected to die, today he’s inspiring others to truly live.

World-renowned inspirational speaker + national bestselling author John O’Leary wants to help you wake up from accidental living so you can do, be, achieve and impact more through your life.

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Feb 9, 2017

Love of country was one of the most important tenants in Sergeant Rocky Sickmann's house the he was growing up. His father and brother were both in the army and Rocky joined the Marines.

In October of 1979, Rocky was a guard at the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran. A few weeks later, he was taken hostage. He was held for the next 444 days.

Rocky recounts the day he was taken hostage, gives unbelievable, historical context from his first-person experience and most importantly: Shares how faith, hope and simple, joy-filled memories are what got him through his darkest days.

Key Takeaways:  

  • Freedom is not free. Rocky is an epic reminder of the sacrifices made by men and women in the military.
  • CHOOSING to be a victor, not a victim, is critical. When Rocky realized his health was deteriorating, he chose to not let the situation get the best of him. In doing so: He recommitted to eating despite having no appetite & doing push ups and pacing in his dark room.
  • Everything you do has a consequence for someone else.
  • A tip to survive an emotionally challenging time: Relive simple childhood memories - or pick a different joyful time in your life if your childhood wasn't idyllic. Rocky spent time in his dark room, tied to a chair reliving: baseball games, sleigh rides and "watching" his mother make him pancakes.
  • "The Man is still up there. Faith is what kept me going. I had never prayed so hard in my life. I even asked God for a sign and he gave me one! He gives them to me all the time now, too."
  • Rocky shares what it was like to finally land at Stewart Air Force Base in New York and see Jill, who today is his wife of 35 years, and parents again for the first time. See photos from Rocky's homecoming here.

  • Rocky is an ambassador for Folds of Honor which provides scholarships to the families of fallen and disabled veterans.
  • Iranian Hostage, a Personal Diary is Rocky's book sharing his experience
  • "Put your heart, mind, soul and prayers towards it and you can survive. You have to make up your mind to not let them get the best of you."
  • "You walk, talk and dress different in the military than you do when you're a civilian. That is why the VFW, American Legions and other organizations are so helpful [when you're making the transition and beyond]."
  • What's your encouragement for those of us with struggles today? "Everybody has a bad time, use that. Survive it; you can survive anything." 


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read?

Your book, ON FIRE.

2. Tomorrow you discover your wealthy uncle shockingly dies at the age of 103; leaving you millions. What would you do?

Folds of Honor, which provides scholarships to the families of fallen and disabled veterans.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?

My wedding album.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be?

President Carter.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Be prepared for an exciting journey.

6. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself at age 20?

Never forget where you came from.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?

Rocky Sickmann, Iranian hostage, 444 days of captivity. God bless America.


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