Remember, Celebrate, Act

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Team Mildenhall, I hope this article finds all of you in good standing personally, professionally, spiritually and financially.

Last year was an exciting year for our installation, with another round of sequestration, civilian furloughs and a high operations tempo. I suspect that 2014 promises to bring more of the same, to include the challenges of force management, but I know that we'll once again rise and persevere.

As you know, Jan. 15 was Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, and I had the privilege of being the guest speaker at a breakfast held in his memory. In honor of African-American Black History Month, I'd like to share my views on King.

I won't do a deep dive into the personal history of where he was born, or when he died, because most of you probably know more than I do. Instead I'd like to expound on our breakfast's theme, "Remember, Celebrate, Act."

I encourage each of you to remember the man; what he stood for; how he carried himself; what, how and who he inspired; what he accomplished and why he died. I'd offer that Martin Luther King Jr. put fear in the establishment; he messed up the apple cart and was seen as a threat. He was a threat who brought hope to men, women and children of all races. He was a threat with a goal to instill dignity and equality in a race of people who'd never seen it before.

I ask you also to remember where we came from as a country - our combustible past, a nation divided - but to keep a laser focus on the future and to remember his vision. I can make an argument that King was the forefather of our Air Force Core Values -- Integrity, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.

"Celebrate" was the second word in the theme for our breakfast. In my mind, it's the one that's fairly easy to understand and discuss, but can be challenging to do.

As we get mired down in the day-to-day grind of work, life and personal issues, it can be difficult to celebrate the many things for which we should be thankful. But whenever possible, let's celebrate the freedoms we have, our country, our families and our diversity.

Many of our political and military leaders rightfully and routinely state that diversity is what makes our country so great. I too believe it's diversity that makes our military the most respected and powerful on earth. We truly are a blessed nation, so celebrate that today and every day.

This brings us to the last word in the theme for our breakfast - Act. Webster's Dictionary defines act (or action) as "the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim." Act as if you care about people and live by the golden rule, which is to say treat others as you'd want to be treated, not necessarily as they treat you.

Act with discipline and demonstrate it in your personal and professional life. Do what's expected of you and take it a step further - do something others may not expect. Thank the janitor for doing his or her job. Thank those in your charge, and watch their reaction -- it's priceless. Act with compassion for mankind; don't always make it about you. Act with dignity and respect for others. People like King, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and Condoleezza Rice behaved in this manner and look at the difference it made in our society.

So, I challenge you to act in a positive and influential way, today and every day, because if not you now, then who when?

African-American Black History Month literally was born from the blood, sweat and tears of many who came before all of us. I encourage you to remember, celebrate, and act in manner befitting those who gave their lives to make it a reality.

Thank you, Team Mildenhall, for your past, present and future sacrifices. Thank you for serving every day in defense of our great nation.