The word character has many meanings according to the dictionary…a feature or trait characteristic, moral or ethical quality, qualities of honesty, courage, and to no surprise….integrity. Since it has so many different meanings, it can be made to adapt to so many different types of people. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
Our families and life experiences help us develop and mold our character, and eventually make us who we end up being in this world, whether it’s the CEO of a large company, or maintaining the freedom of being your own boss by running your own business. A person’s character says a lot about them, but it’s how you SHOW it is what gives it that true meaning.
Some people say that to have courage, a person must run into the firefight. That person needs to be fearless all the time in every situation. Well, I am here to tell you that I do not totally agree with either one or the other of those definitions.
My opinion is that it would be better defined a combination of several things, to include those. There are people in this world that don’t realize they are courageous until the time comes for them to stand their ground, run into the fire to save a fellow Airman, or shoot back at the person trying to harm you or your comrades. Courage, my Air Force team, comes in ALL shapes and sizes, daytime or nighttime, and most importantly, it has never been gender specific.
Some of you may have never experienced your “defining moment”. That action or decision you will have to make that makes you say “I got this”. That moment that makes you actually FEEL that you faced it, stared it down, and won. Not only did you win the fight with your fear, you have proven to yourself that when the time comes, you will have strengths you NEVER saw coming. Courage you NEVER knew existed and a pride and sense of commitment you either forgot about, or got lost in translation”.
I have had several instances since given the honor of wearing this uniform that have tested both my faith and my resiliency, but I have never questioned my loyalty or commitment to the job that I love, and that is having a hand in protecting my country.
My deployment to Afghanistan was a test to every piece of my character. But, little did I know that this trip would hold SEVERAL of MY “defining moments”.
After one of our many convoys and about 10 minutes after I took off my gear, rifle, pistol, and boots, and sat on the bed at the FOB, a 300 lb car bomb exploded about 200-300 feet behind my bldg., throwing me off the bed and into a wall. Glass and shattered pieces of the wall behind me where everywhere. The reaction I had was not the one I expected. I threw my boots and vest on, and low-crawled down the hall to a female Army medic’s room. Once I made sure she was ok, we low crawled back into the hall. All I could say at that point was, “Chamber a round, soldier. Anybody that comes through that door that doesn’t belong to us, put 2 in their chest and 1 in their head.” Both of us chambered our M4s, and laid in the prone, scope crosshairs squared, and waited for accountability, or at that point, a bad guy.
After that entire experience, I saw what I could and would do when put in the middle of chaos, and I knew I would be able to handle anything. My faith was restored, not only in my skills, but in my sense of purpose. So, be out front, take on challenges, and make changes. If you don’t agree with something, let people know. Don’t expect things to change or get better if you just hang back.
President Harry Truman once said, “Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” Show passion, show courage to stand up for what you believe in. Show pride in the way you carry yourself, wear your uniform, and dig deep to find your true purpose. You don’t have to look death in the face to be considered courageous, but you do need to stand on your own two feet for things, and sometimes, you may be standing alone, but people will notice.
Don’t be the person with one foot in the water, and one on the shore. Do a cannonball in the deep end of the pool, and splash everyone.
I have always been committed to this uniform, I still put it on every day for different reasons than most. It’s not a uniform to me, it is a symbol of pride, and I wear it as such. You never know, it could be contagious. Your “defining moments” are out there.