If not me, then who will preserve our legacy?

The ‘little things’ we do always matter

Commentary

Today, we serve in the greatest Air Force this world has ever seen. But how did we become that?

We stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us: Airmen like Jimmy Doolittle, John Levitow, William Pitsenbarger, Esther Blake and Antwon Toson. I’m sure everyone knows the first four people I mentioned, but I’d be surprised if you know the fifth.

Antwon was an Airman I served with at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. He was always willing to go above and beyond to ensure the mission was accomplished. He greeted everyone with a smile and sincere “How are you?”

At least once a week, Antwon would ask me what he could do to improve as an Airman and person. He kept me on my toes, and I appreciated his questions and initiative.

During one of our feedback sessions, I asked him why he was so driven and why he volunteered for so many different events and organizations. His answer was simple: “If I don’t do it, who is going to?”

His response both troubled me and made me proud of him. He wanted to make sure he did whatever he could to carry on the legacy of those who served before him, while doing what he could to make himself a better Airman and individual. His answer troubled me because, in his eyes, not enough Airmen were doing what’s expected of them.

We discussed his answer in even more detail, and after he left my office, I sat and wondered if I was doing everything I should to carry on the legacy of those who served before me.

A lot of people wonder why I’m so passionate about serving in the Air Force, being involved in professional organizations and making sure I (and everyone around me) adhere to Air Force standards. The answer is simple ... If not me, then who?

Many people have worn the Air Force uniform and built a legacy for us to follow and traditions we need to uphold. If we don’t hold each other accountable and adhere to Air Force standards, everything these men and women sacrificed and worked so hard to build will fall by the wayside.

Think about the “little things” we don’t do every day. Do you walk by a piece of paper on the ground without picking it up, thinking someone else will? Do you notice someone out of uniform and fail to correct them? Do you not volunteer for something because you think someone else will?

You may think none of these things will help keep our Air Force the greatest in the world or build upon the legacy of those who served before us, but I disagree.

If we fail to do these “little” things, our bases will start to look unkempt, Airmen will wear their uniforms however they feel and people will not only “pencil-whip” training, but fail to do it altogether. You see, it is all these “little things” put together that make the Air Force function the way it does.

We need to hold each other accountable, as well as ourselves, to ensure the legacy we leave for the Airmen who follow us is as good, if not better, than the one left for us.

I’ll change up my original question just a bit: If not you, then who?

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