Meaning, Purpose Symposium: learning the value of self-worth

RAF MILDENHALL, England – Airmen of all ranks, from agencies across the base, attended the first Meaning and Purpose Symposium Sept. 26, 2017, hosted by the RAF Mildenhall Square-D Center for Character and Culture.

The seminar is the result of a combined partnership between the 100th Air Refueling Wing Office of Violence Prevention and the 48th Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy Office.

“The symposium was designed to enhance our community members’ ability to attribute positive meaning and lead a purposeful life,” said Lisa Velez, 100th ARW violence prevention integrator. “The symposium consisted of a poignant, educational aspect, with speakers who have applied these principles, and a reflective exercise.”

The speakers, including Velez, shared personal life experiences that influenced their perspective or fueled the motivation to overcome hardships in life.

“We wanted to demonstrate that living a meaningful life with a positive purpose is possible across ranks, age, gender, and ethnicity; the diverse speakers chosen demonstrated commitment, perseverance, and the willingness to find their purpose,” Velez explained. “We know that the meaning we make of our experiences matters; living meaningfully with a positive life purpose protects against the risk of suicide.”

Airman 1st Class Dabel Brutus, 352d Special Operations Support Squadron cyber operations systems technician, shared his story about his life prior to enlisting in the Air Force. He described how life’s adversities aren’t sympathetic to persistency or severity. His experiences dealing with troubling times allowed emotional growth and emphasized the power of empathy.

“I derived meaning and purpose of my life from my sufferings, and I learned that I am not alone in facing them,” Brutus explained. “Lending an ear can save a life – it offers hope.”

The idea that positive change stems from a single person’s mindset resonated throughout the platform.

"Our thoughts become our beliefs; our beliefs become our actions and our actions become our life,” said Capt. Johnathan Brown, 48th MDOS Family Advocacy officer. "If we believe we can make a positive difference ... we will."

The seminar was created to give Airmen the tools to see the value of self-worth, which in turn can positively influence people around them.

“We hoped attendees would be inspired to reflect upon their identity and purpose as Airmen and to inspire others to live and work more fully through an example of excellence,” Velez said. “The daily work of Team Mildenhall makes a difference. “