This month’s AFMC connect is about Caring. Caring is at the forefront of not only being a First Sergeant, but an Airman in the United States Air Force. It is part of our Airmen’s Creed; “Never leave an Airman behind.” According to Webster’s Dictionary, caring is defined as “displaying kindness and concern for others.” There are endless synonyms to describe caring such as compassionate, loving, kindly, and warm. With the holidays upon us, caring is a part of the season…but what about the other ten months?
We ensure our Airman are taken care of, having holiday and squadron parties, even decorating the offices together to make it feel more festive. Yet, with all the outreach from people or supporting organizations, there are some people who still feel lost, alone, and as if no one cares about them. Many Airmen are away from their families during the holidays. Friends and loved ones are mere voices on the other end of a phone call. While we may open our homes or invite them to join us, they are still dealing with being somewhat isolated in their own way.
An Airman, a long time ago, detailed how they felt lost personally, alone, and didn’t think anyone cared they existed. They poured themselves into work. They did all the volunteer events with a smile on their face. When they departed, their reality sunk in again. Sadness, depression, and exhaustion inundated their psyche. No connection to anyone local and their family was over two thousand miles away. The First Sergeant was the one to notice one day the Airman was behaving differently. He pulled the Airman into his office and asked the most powerful 4-word question, “How are you doing?” Within seconds the Airman unloaded everything they had been feeling. Wave after wave, 10 different emotions filled the office. Before the Airman left, he laid out a roadmap of how to heal personally and gain a sense of connectedness to others. Every couple days, the First Sergeant would check in, ensure the Airman was doing okay, and inquired as to where they were on the roadmap they generated. Thankfully the Airman was honest about where they were, or if no progress was made in a certain area. The First Sergeant cared enough to show them the potential path correction, then follow-up, to set them up for success.
Days and months went by, not only the supervisors saw a change, but most importantly, the Airman could positively identify a true change in themselves. The First Sergeant, who impressively cared for a 530 personnel strong flying group, dedicated his time to help this Airman. Even though, initially, they didn’t want to help themselves, but it worked out for the Airman. All it took was care. Even when that Airman PCS’d, this First Sergeant kept in touch and still wanted the best for them, ensuring they didn’t go back down a potentially dark hole, as was previously avoided. I can tell you confidently now, I was that Airman. The First Sergeant was retired Chief Master Sergeant Antonio Goldstrum. We still talk to this day, 19 years later and he ensures that I am still being cared for, as well as caring for myself.
Caring doesn’t have to be something as extravagant as my story. Showing you care can be as simple just saying “Hi” in the hallway, giving a smile, or just asking if someone is okay when something seems a little off. The smallest hint that you truly care can change someone’s whole perspective on that day, or life for that matter. “You never really know the true impact you have on those around you. You never know how much someone needed that smile you gave them. You never know how much your kindness turned someone’s entire life around. You never know how much someone needed that long hug or deep talk. So don’t wait to be kind or care. Don’t wait for someone else to be kind or care first. Don’t wait for better circumstances or for someone to change. Just care, because you never know how much someone needed it.” — Unknown