NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, NEV. — He was 7,023 miles from his home, serving an air and space expeditionary force rotation in Afghanistan when the news rang out like a mortar attack siren: Maj. Greg “Fez” Dash was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. The diagnosis was terminal.
Dash passed away in February, and although he is no longer with us to share his quick wit, contagious smile and renowned intellect, his spirit can and will live on. He exemplified an extraordinary optimism, that can be described in a simple phrase — “Just ‘F.E.Z’ It!” F for “Follow your dreams;” E for “Embrace what you have;” and Z representing a “Zest for life.”
When young Greg Dash got something in his head he wanted to do, he ‘Followed his dreams’ with an unrelenting determination. Be it his determination at 13 that he was going to the Air Force Academy or his burning desire to graduate from the United States Air Force Weapons School, he always followed his dreams.
From the fateful day in Afghanistan when he received his cancer diagnosis in 2010, Fez never felt sorry for himself but instead “Embraced what he had.” He enhanced his knowledge and understanding of cancer by devouring medical writings, focusing on getting ‘healthy,’ and advancing the medical community’s understanding of this incurable disease. He once said, “On a positive note, the blessings of cancer are the deep self-reflection, spiritual growth, enlightened worldview, and the humility it has forced upon me.” He truly “Embraced what he had.”
I first met then Captain Dash at a Weapons and Tactics Conference where he served as the joint surveillance and target attack radar system subject matter expert. I thought to myself, “this guy is passionate and has an unquestionable Zest for life.” It was the same theme years later when we spoke following his initial medical treatments. This was a person who was not going to let life pass him by; he was going to live his life with zero regrets.
As Airmen, each and every one of us can learn valuable life lessons from Major Dash if we “Just FEZ It!”
If you show up to work each and every day, absolutely loving your job, and so incredibly glad for your profession that is fantastic! You understand what it means to “Just FEZ it.” However, if you are someone who loathes getting up in the morning because this is not the job you dreamed of; well, it’s time you “Follow your dreams.”
We often encounter hardship and change in our lives; we sometimes wish things were different. The key to all of this is “Embracing what you have” by seeking out the positive aspects of the situation you have been thrust into.
Years ago, as I was driving through the gate on a typical drizzling day at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, I encountered a security forces Airman who understood this. I rolled down my window and handed over my ID. The senior airman took it, examined it, looked me square in eyes, re-examined it, and then, despite being soaked from head-to-toe, snapped the sharpest salute I have ever received and exclaimed, “Have a great day, Sir!”
I often reflect on that moment, and I realize that senior airman could have easily been grumpy about the task he had to perform on such a damp and dreary day but instead he chose a positive attitude.
When I think back to Fez’s last few years of his life, the one thing that truly stands out is his “Zest for life.” He genuinely viewed each and every day as a gift to be opened.
How many of us take for granted that we can fix or fly aircraft, go to the gym, attend classes in the evening, or put on our uniforms in the morning? I fathom there are times when we look at those actions as more of a chore than the incredible opportunity that they are.
As Airmen, there are many opportunities for us to get excited about and look forward to. So, from now on it is up to us to possess that “Zest for life” and do our best to attack the day with a renewed purpose and vigor.
Lastly, there are changes abound in our Air Force with most of them being beyond our control. What we can control is how we, as Airmen, approach these changes. I hope you will think back on Dash’s life and remember to “Just FEZ it!”
Follow your dreams until you have achieved what you set out to do, absolutely Embrace what you have, and attack the day by having a Zest for life!
Footnote: On the evening of Feb. 14, we lost a fellow Airman, weapons officer, son, husband and friend. Maj. Greg “Fez” Dash, USAFA ‘98 and USAFWS ‘04B, lost his courageous four-year long battle to cancer.