Louis Armstrong said, “Musicians don’t retire; they stop when there’s no more music in them.” This morning is the culmination of 20 years of music that I’ve had in my heart for my country … However, It is not a matter of not hearing the music anymore … but knowing that it’s time to close out this piece and begin another.
I’ve several I need to thank today:
Jesus – The day He came into my life was and still is the greatest day ever, and I’m thankful that He saved even a wretch like me and allows me to serve Him in the greatest Air Force in the world.
My precious wife, Lisa. She is my inspiration and all my reasons for being the man I am today. I love you babe, you are everything to me (kisses).
I have two hero’s in my life, and they are my children.
Chris – (call him up) His quiet and peaceful attitude gives me pause; reminds me to breathe now and then and just smile … I love ya man. (watch)
Nicole – (call her up) Her energy and laughter brings me joy; reminds me that I am not dead yet; and keeps me guessing always. I am so proud to be her Daddy, love you. (necklace)
Mom and Dad – Let’s face it, the reason I am alive today, and I’m thankful for their support and love throughout my entire life. Thank you for being here today, I really appreciate both of you so much.
My entire extended family who have supported us through several moves, listen to our complaints and even traveled here to be with us; I’m grateful to all of you for being here today and for ensuring that we always had a place to rest our heads, hearts, and souls when we needed one … you guys are the best.
There are several others who have gotten me here that I need to recognize:
I’ve never had a boss that I’ve been more grateful to for teaching me how to lead, for ensuring that I had every ounce of support I needed, and for knowing when the leash had to be yanked … and for doing so. Ms Moore (Lt Col Moore), thank you for being more than a boss but a close friend all these years. Your friendship, leadership, and always ensuring that the “team” is first is inspiring and I am grateful to have learned so much from you. The future is bright, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter … thanks to what you have taught me.
Along with her is her deputy and my former boss, Tel Benavidez. If ever there was a man that I would model myself after who displays peace, grace, and yet knows how to “get after it” when necessary … it is this man. Thank you Tel for reminding me to laugh, even at myself, for 6 years. It has been an incredible blessing to work side by side with you and your friendship has meant more to me than a few words could capture. I will miss our “fireside chats”, but I know you are always available to me and my family and I’m incredibly grateful to you. (Quein es? – Roll Tide!)
Entire SBG family and friends – wow, we’ve had some fun, eh? I leave things in your capable hands today, but ask that you take it easy on MSgt Gaskin, he’s got a huge learning curve – but if you guys can get me through it I know he’ll have no problem. Thank you guys … oh, and Happy Birthday Cindy … it’ll be “aiiight”.
I’ve had several challenges while I’ve been here particularly with my physical health, and I know the Lord has helped me battle through those. Even after 2 neck surgeries and lots of steroids, without Him sending into my life several angels in the form of Mr. Jose Ramos, Chiefs Garland and Borland, and SMSgt Corino I would not be here today. Thank you Sirs, I owe you a debt of gratitude that I cannot repay.
To my mentor, friend, and advocate: Col Randy Hagan – Thank you for always reminding me that “it is not time to panic”; it’s a phrase I’ve carried with me for over a decade which has helped me through LOTS of scenarios. Truly, today is not time to panic … but to rejoice and smile. Thank you Sir, I cherish your friendship and leadership – and look forward to continuing in the “next phase”.
“Mr.” Washington – Thank you for coming today to sing and be a part of this event. I am honored and blessed to have worked so many ceremonies with you, and congratulations on your retirement as well – it is well earned.
Bro Butch – You’ve no idea how much I appreciate your friendship and mentorship in the pastorate and I’m grateful to you … thank you for always showing me how to lead, even using words if necessary.
Lastly, to the entire planning committee for putting this on today. Thank you guys, you’ve really made this day wonderful and memorable for my family. I am grateful to have worked alongside this team, and I’m always available to you – always.
I’d like to leave you with 2 pieces of wisdom to carry on from today.
The first is, Education.
No matter how many things you have to give up for the military, education is the one thing that you can go and get that can never be taken away from you. My only regret is that I waited until year 14 to begin my post high-school journey.
Young troops: start now because the benefit to you far outweighs anything you can ever imagine. To my peers and even those “older” than me: get it done folks … get it done.
I mentioned that the benefits can never be taken away, but the funding and financing can be – so strike while the iron is hot and don’t wait. You’ve only yourself to blame if you don’t get educated – so take it from the crusty old Tech Sgt … today is the day to finish your education.
The last piece of wisdom is, Integrity matters.
Integrity is the first Air Force core value for a reason. When you say you are going to do something – you need to do it. When you give your word to complete a task, it needs to be done to the best of your ability.
At the end of the day, when all you have left is your word, integrity matters. Don’t EVER sacrifice your integrity to cut a corner or make ends meet. It is not worth the price you will pay in the end … because even in our high tech world of gadgets and devices, if your integrity is damaged you have lost the ability to lead and perhaps even to follow.
Our Air Force is based on integrity and followership, and we must have those at the forefront at all times. To quote my former First Sgt and friend, MSgt (ret) Steve Gralewski, “This is not a democracy. It is the military. We fight for democracy … but we do not practice it.” Your integrity allows you to lead and to follow, and … IT matters.
2 Timothy 4:7 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
It is the prayer of my heart that this can be said of my efforts to serve as best as I could. Thank you all for coming and may God bless you richly in your lives. Love ya’ll – more than words could ever capture.