PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Often in my work as the director of psychological health and I encounter Airmen seeking assistance in dealing with major life changes. Some of these changes include divorce, medical issues, financial issues and unwanted career changes like medical board separations and retirements.
Typically, in these situations Airmen can see themselves as “broken” or having little value or maybe just “stuck” with no clear idea of what the future holds. Often, the Airman expresses a sense of failure or even shame over these circumstances that are very clearly out of their control. I’d like to share with you an abridged version of the skill building I often use in these situations.
Sometimes plans change. Sometimes we have to regroup, restart and rebuild. Sometimes we have to ask for help. And sometimes these changes mean leaving the Air Force altogether and starting over as a civilian.
Being resilient doesn’t mean fixing all your problems on your own.
Being resilient means doing what is necessary to overcome your obstacles. Being resilient means to evolve, grow and change. Sometimes that means asking for help. Sometimes it means scrapping your old plans for new ones. Life can throw some scary scenarios and make you feel isolated, worried and alone. Being resilient doesn’t mean that you don’t feel frightened about the unknown. Being resilient means that you talk about it and ask for help from friends and professionals to walk you through the unknown whether that is a doctor, a lawyer, a member of clergy or your friendly unit social worker (that’s me!).
Below is a video clip of retired Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the former Air Force chief of staff, speaking to the cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2013. It’s always impressed me how proud he is of his son and how his son, John, managed to pull himself up by his bootstraps and start over in a whole new career path after being medically discharged from the Air Force. Can you imagine being a third generation fighter pilot with a four star general as a father, having to face a medical board and subsequently losing your military flying career? I can only imagine how John Welsh must have dreamt from a young age of being a fighter pilot just like his father and grandfather before him. If you want to get to the part I’m referring to, it starts at 18:58. I recommend watching the entire speech.
Sometimes circumstances are out of our control. People leave relationships. People are separated against their wishes from service. People receive grim medical diagnoses. People face financial devastation. People grieve the loss of loved ones. But we can always choose to persevere. We can choose to not give up. We can choose to change and evolve our plans. We can ask for help.
We can choose resiliency.