Leaving A Lasting Impression
(January 25, 2011)
KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (1/21/2011 - AFNS) -- As
service members, we can meet hundreds, if not thousands, of
people throughout a career. Some of the people you will meet
will leave lasting impressions that will influence and guide
you professionally and personally. Perhaps it is a
commander, a first sergeant, a supervisor or a strong NCO.
For me, one person was a senior NCO, who was also my father.
My father joined the Army in 1967 during the Vietnam
War to avoid going to college. His father did not have faith
that he would do well in the Army, but after thirty 30 years
of service, he retired a proud sergeant major.
was your typical sergeant major -- short-tempered, brutally
honest and stern. He was the type to lead from the front; he
always set the example for his troops. He gloated about
running faster than his youngest Soldiers during physical
training, not to make them feel bad, but to motivate them to
"When I first enlisted, I could barely
pass my PT test," my dad said. "But now, I can run faster
than any of these young privates, and I'm twice their age."
My dad wasn't perfect, and he definitely had
weaknesses, but he was fully aware of them. He had a good
sense of humor, and he joked that he wasn't smart enough to
join the Air Force. Or he would laugh about how his friends
had to carry him to finish PT because he was so out of shape
when he was in boot camp.
Because he knew his
weaknesses, he developed a positive attitude that allowed
him to transform his weaknesses into strengths. It took a
lot of hard work, time and dedication, but he always set out
to improve himself. He eventually earned his bachelor's
degree, a black belt in Karate, and he ran every day for
Even after his retirement, my dad's positive
attitude continued. In September 2009, my whole family was
shocked with the news that he was diagnosed with stage-four
pancreatic cancer. With his attitude, he was determined to
beat the disease, so he did what he knew and he fought. He
fought his doctors, who said he would only have six months
to live. He fought TRICARE, who said he had to get treatment
locally. Within two months, he relocated with my mother to
Houston, to receive treatment from one of the world's
top-rated cancer treatment centers.
combination of radiation and chemotherapy was prescribed to
him on a weekly basis. The first few sessions were
surprising, as he did not react like most patients.
"It's his attitude -- he's a fighter," said his nurse and
After a month of treatment, my dad was
playing tennis and running three miles. We all thought he
was going to be one of the few people who would beat the
often terminal form of cancer. His doctors and nurses were
very optimistic as his test results showed cancer cells
Then things turned for the worse, and his
treatment stopped working. The doctors began trying other
options, different types of medication and different doses,
but his body was getting weaker and he was reacting harshly
to the therapy. Trips to the emergency room were becoming
routine; he was always dehydrated, lethargic and he couldn't
keep his food down.
Gradually, his trips to the
emergency room extended into longer stays so the doctors
could monitor him more closely. Almost every weekend, I
drove to visit him in the hospital and he continued to keep
his positive attitude. He joked about the gross hospital
food and he pestered me to deploy to Afghanistan to do my
part. Despite his good mood, his body was slowly giving up
as he started to drift in and out of consciousness
My father passed away June 17, 2010.
Several of his friends and coworkers from the Army, who knew
him early in his career, made the time to pay their last
respects. Even after decades, they shared stories and
recalled his positive, fighting attitude, and they described
how my dad pushed them and influenced their careers too. His
attitude impacted so many people.
It was his example
that motivated me to go to apply for scholarships, go to
college and join the Air Force. When I was unsatisfied with
my job, it was my dad who encouraged me to stay in the
military, to try something new, volunteer for different jobs
and eventually cross-train. Even though I was hesitant to go
on my first deployment, he said it would be a good
experience and it would make me a better officer and leader.
Even in death, my father continues to influence me
by the examples he set during his military career and
through his battle against cancer. I continue to challenge
myself professionally, mentally and physically. There are a
lot of things in life we cannot control, but one thing we
can control is our attitude, and that's probably the most
important lesson my dad shared with others and me.
Now, think about those people who have influenced your life
and what you have learned from them. More importantly, think
about how you might impact someone else. Even in a one-year
remote tour at Kunsan AB, we all have the ability to make
someone or something better, or worse. What kind of lasting
impressions do you want to leave?
By USAF Capt. Sheryll Klinkel|
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News
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