Life’s not fair -- what you do with it is up to you

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Royce "Bull" Terry
  • 71st Medical Operations Squadron commander
Not long ago I was in a meeting where we were discussing medical-ethical issues. As the meeting progressed and we dissected the ethical issue at hand somebody emphatically stated "That's just not fair!" 

Despite my better judgment, I just couldn't let that go. Maybe it was the father in me. After having five kids I can't count the times I heard that line. Perhaps it was being raised on a horse ranch where "fair was for cotton candy and showing pigs -- now get back to work!" 

It was almost like a reflex that was going to happen no matter how much I tried. I said, "Life isn't fair because if it were I'd be 6'4" and good looking." After a few chuckles around the room we were able to dispel the "just not fair" argument and continue to drill down to the root cause of the ethical concern. 

Later as I contemplated the whole issue of being fair, my mind went back to a time when one of my sons learned a valuable life lesson about fairness. He is a twin and after high school both brothers enlisted in the military. One chose the Army to become all he could be as a military policeman, while the other joined the Marines where he chose to kick in doors for a living. 

Yes, it seems that I failed as an Air Force father, though I am very proud that they both decided to serve. 

After spending a year deployed to Cuba, my Army son was reassigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he met that special girl and married. When his enlistment came to an end, he decided to transition into the civilian sector. 

Not being able to find a job with any of the local police departments, he did what he had to do in order to put food on the table -- he got a J.O.B. 

During his first year out of the military he had several jobs, many of which were minimal and unglamorous, but they were jobs. He continued to progress into better jobs until finally landing a decent paying one. Throughout his transition I received numerous phone calls where he exclaimed, "That's not fair," "They can't do that," "They can't treat people that way," or "That's just not right!" 

My son was coming to the realization that he no longer belonged to an elite organization where equal opportunity was a reality or where the workers were protected by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. 

We are truly blessed to be part of such an organization, where every man or woman, whether active duty, reserve, civilian or contractor, are provided equal opportunity irrespective of race, color, religion, national origin or sex. A place where we can do our jobs in an environment that is free from arbitrary discrimination or sexual harassment. 

As Air Force members, it's our duty to ensure our equal opportunity culture thrives and that each member is treated with dignity and respect. Our people are our greatest asset and the most important factor in keeping our Air Force the best Air, Space and Cyberspace force in the world. 

So, is life fair? Is it fair that someone else may be promoted below-the-zone, that they are selected for an in-residence education program, or that they will reach a particular high rank? 

I'm convinced that life is not fair; for we have no choice in our parents, genetics, gifts or abilities and that I'm just going to have to get over the fact that I'll be the shortest one in the crowd. 

However, the Air Force gives each of us the same opportunity to achieve success. It's how we motivate and prepare ourselves, identify and respond to opportunities, as well as a bit of luck that sets us apart. What we do with the opportunities the Air Force provides us is completely within our power. 

As many of us know, it's when preparation runs head-on into opportunity that we see success. It is "fair" to say that the Air Force will provide the opportunity -- what you do with it is up to you.