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Integrity: What Does It Mean?
by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Krystal Jeffers - June 12, 2014

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JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas - One of the first things an Airman is taught is the Air Forces' core values: "Integrity First," "Service before Self" and "Excellence in all we do." The very first one, I believe, is the hardest to master and embody, and is the foundation for the other two.

It is hard to be known as a person with integrity and it is very easy to lose one's reputation - it only takes one mistake. Right now the Air Force's integrity is in question because of the cheating scandal at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. and misconduct at basic military training.

The actions of a few have tarnished the integrity of the group.

But what exactly is integrity?

The dictionary answer is "the adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty." The simple answer is "doing the right thing."

But what does that really mean? How does that actually apply to life?

Several weeks back, I am ashamed to admit, I accidentally bumped into another car when I was backing up into a parking space. There was a loud "crunch" as someone's car acquired a dent the size of two fists above their back tire.

There were a lot of excuses I could give myself to not do anything. There was no one there to see that I did anything. The driver had no idea who did it. I was running late and if I left a note then I would be even later.

To be honest, I stood there frozen with indecision. Finally, I admitted to myself what I would expect if the roles were reversed. I admitted that I would be ashamed of my actions if I did nothing; it would be wrong to walk away. I would not be living up to the core values I swore to uphold.

I knew I was going to be late, my insurance would probably go up and I would be in trouble. However, I can proudly say that I left my information. I did the right thing and stayed true to the Air Force and my values.

Later, my insurance guy heard what I did from the victim of the accident and made a big fuss, calling me an "honest person" like it was unusual when it should be the norm and I find that incredibly sad.

Can we all say, no matter the circumstances, that we would do the right thing? I strive to be a person who can truthfully say yes without hesitation.

However, I believe integrity is even simpler than that; simpler than not cheating on a test or admitting fault to a huge mistake. Life throws us choices every day. Some are easy while others can be challenging to make. What I find surprising is how many people I see take the easy way out instead of doing the right thing on these supposedly easy life choices.

For example, when you see a car trying to merge in front of you, do you slow down to let them over or speed up? When there are two car lanes merging into one and the line is backed up, do you immediately try to merge over or wait until the last minute, cutting the line? Do you hold the door open for not only the elderly and disabled but, also everyone else or go straight inside? At the gas station, do you leave the car at the pump despite being done with it to shop inside or do you move even when the parking lot is full?

It is hard to admit this, but ask yourself and be truthful: do you do what is easiest for you? Or do you do the right thing even if no one is there to see it, even if everyone else is doing it wrong and pushing you to do the same?

I know that I am only an airman 1st class and that I still have so much to learn in regards to the Air Force. However, that is no excuse for not trying to be the best I can be. I work every day to live and embody each core value even when it is difficult.

It is hard. It is a struggle every day. Some days I do better than others while others leave me disappointed in myself.

However, I strongly believe that doing the right thing with small every-day choices makes it easier and more natural to do the right thing when faced with some of life's harder choices. It becomes a habit and our habits define us.

I don't know about everyone else, but I desire to be known as someone people can depend on; someone people can trust to do the right thing no matter what, even if that means I get the short end of the stick. I want to be known a person with integrity.

What about you?

By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Krystal Jeffers
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2014

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