It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally the publisher assigns a topic.
Given that this past weekend was Armed Services Weekend and we’re leading up to Memorial Day, John asked those of us with a military background what we “took from our service for the rest of our days.”
That, in and of itself, is a fairly straightforward question.
The correct answer, if there is such a thing, is what you expect: I learned planning, discipline, respect, punctuality, hard work, teamwork, sacrifice, courage, honor, integrity and so much more.
However, I do not think John was really looking for the transformative qualities that were instilled into me over the course of ten weeks in the hot Orlando sun in 1992, which eventually gave way to the same sun beating down on me in the Persian Gulf during at-sea replenishments a decade later, or the white-hot light of a video camera glaring at me throughout my career as a public affairs officer.
No, if I know the publisher, he wants me to dig a bit deeper.
The reality is that what will always stay with me from my military service is loyalty.
Whether it’s the camaraderie I still have with shipmates who I served with long ago or my commitment to writing this column for John and you, being known as loyal is incredibly important to me. This is not a blind loyalty or loyalty that ignores problems and concerns. If anything, it’s that sense of loyalty and desire to improve organizations, groups, states, nations, cities, etc. that makes what I learned from the military so special.
Truly high-performing units in the military understand this cohesion and the productivity that comes not from mutiny or disobedience, but from skilled and sometimes courageous advice from everyone who is part of the team. It is a loyalty to ensuring that your team achieves the mission efficiently, utilizing the unique skills of all involved. Working on solving the problem together.
Loyalty is also the embodiment of the golden rule. It is the concept of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Loyalty, as a form of love, is mutual to all involved. In other words, loyalty is not a one-way street.
Loyal organizations and people are found everywhere throughout the military. There are, of course, exceptions, but I have been blessed to serve and work with exceptional people who put others ahead of themselves. They were tremendous human beings. They had your back, stood up for others, supported the team, did what was necessary to get the job done and were present through thick and thin.
The opposite of loyalty, of course, is betrayal. There’s a reason this act hurts so much and is met with such a strong response. When someone breaks trust and confidence, it is the worst sort of pain. We instinctively understand betrayal, which should help us understand loyalty.
I like to think of myself as loyal, and I attempt to practice it in everything I do. I also think most of us are instinctively loyal, but it was the military that made me aware of the behavior.
Knowing what loyalty is and conscientiously applying it to my everyday actions has truly added more value and meaning to my life.
This column was written for The Princess Anne Independent News.