Living the dream – as you define it

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Royce "Bull" Terry
  • 71st Medical Operations Squadron commander
Last month I was blessed to officiate the retirement ceremony of a fellow officer upon the completion of 22 years of service to the U.S. Air Force. 

Despite some untimely nasty weather, the room was packed with active duty and retired military, friends from the local community and numerous family members. They had all taken time out of their busy schedules to attend the ceremony. 

In all the splendor and pageantry of an official military retirement ceremony, we set out to proudly honor his service and sacrifice to our great nation. 

As I reviewed his career with the audience, it was clear that the past 22 years was chock-full of memories. Some were good, some were sad. Some were easy, some were hard. There were big wins as well as significant losses, and times of laughter as well as tears. 

As most of us know, a military career is far more than a job or an adventure. It is the place where duty, honor and country collide head-on with God, family and friends in one's life. 

In each occasion this officer had the drive to meet the challenges head on. He found solutions that enabled him to complete the mission while also meeting the needs of his family, enabling him to serve those 22 years. 

With each job and change in rank he was given additional opportunity, many times disguised as responsibility. And in fine Air Force fashion, as he seized the opportunities available to him, he received his reward; sometimes with rank or position but always with additional responsibility. We promote our members not based on what they have done, but for their potential to serve in the next higher grade. 

With each new assignment or position, he brought along his very own personal leadership toolbox to get the job done. I couldn't help but think that we all bring different talents and abilities to our organizations -- all of which are critical for our Wing to accomplish the mission. 

In a lot of ways, our Wing is representative of a body. Some folks will represent the head or a hand. They are out front, very visible and in the spotlight. Others will represent the backbone or the foot, rarely in the spotlight but always working in the background. 

Each is equally important for the mission to be accomplished. For how can the head function if not supported by the backbone? No matter what your talents, abilities or position within our Wing's body, you are critical for its success. 

If we are to truly function as one body or integrated team, each of us must fill our assigned roles, working in concert with, depending on and trusting one another. 

With each new challenge, this officer crafted his definition of a successful military career designed specifically for him and his family. There are as many definitions of a successful military career as there are paths available to achieve them. In other words, you are the only one who can define what constitutes a successful career. 

For some, it may be a rank or position. For others it may be an expertise or an experience, or simply being part of the greatest Air Force in the world. 

Now there is no right or wrong answer -- only your answer. This is the answer we each define daily as we make choices -- choices that are many times disguised as challenges, obstacles, roadblocks or even victories and accomplishments. 

What is success and how do you get there? Only you can define that. But however you answer the question, put it in writing, review it often and set your personal career goals. 

For the past 22 years this officer got up every day and did what it took to get the job done. A job of sacrifice and service to our nation. A job defined by the mission, his roles and responsibilities. A job shaped by his drive, talents and abilities. A job that supported his defined career goals and objectives. A job worth honor and recognition. 

Yes, this officer was blessed to live out his dream career as he defined it. As we close the chapter on his military career, I encourage you to take time to consider your military service. Take stock of your talents and abilities, define your success, outline goals and objectives, and eliminate failure as an option. 

You'll find that the only thing standing between you and living the dream -- is you.