Based on his combat experience, some of which is recounted in the 2016 movie “13 Hours,” the former Army Ranger stressed the importance of sacrifice, teamwork and keeping up the good fight against insurmountable odds.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen, but you can’t quit,” Paronto told a mesmerized audience on July 26 at the 77th annual meeting of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives in Virginia Beach.

Known as “Tanto,” the vet-turned-motivational speaker has a long list of real-world challenges that would test just about anyone’s commitment to the greater good.

Among them was his role on the CIA annex security team that responded to the terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012. That team battled terrorists for more than 13 hours and saved more than 20 lives in the process. Paronto took co-op leaders through the imbroglio, some of which he likened to walking into a pizza oven.

In circumstances like that, leaders are making decisions that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. But that’s part of leadership and sacrifice, he noted.

In an interview before his presentation, Paronto said his story seems to resonate with listeners from all walks of life, but especially veterans. Recently, in Las Vegas, he said one vet told him the theme of “not giving up” helped him turn away from hurting himself.

“Talking to others who’ve been through duress or gone through tragic losses or tragic events — being able to look them in the eye and hear them say, “You’ve inspired me to drive on, to not give up on myself’ — that is why I do it,” he said.

Speechmaking is a plus for Paronto, as well, who takes some of his speechmaking ability from his father, a former football coach. “It’s very therapeutic for me as a veteran to always talk about what took place and not keep it inside.”

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Above Photo: Kris “Tanto” Paronto addresses the annual meeting of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives. (Photo By: Laura Emery)