Reflections on what it means to truly serve

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Casey Boomershine
  • 81st Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant
I'd like you to take a moment out of your day to think about service. What does it mean to you to serve?

Most Americans are familiar with the quote, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." When President Kennedy spoke those words at his inaugural address, it was a call to be more, to do more. He asked the American people to think about the gifts they have been given, and the price that was paid for them. More and more often in the news and media, I see that people doing things for others has been replaced with people doing things for themselves. The idea of giving back has been replaced with a sense of entitlement -- people want what is "owed" to them. It worries me, until I take a look around to see my fellow Airmen performing acts of selfless service every day.

Service before self can be a small thing, like skipping evening television to go for a run because you know you need to do it to maintain physical readiness. You may work long hours or weekends because there is an inspection to prepare for, an important visitor coming or a deployment looming on the horizon. It may mean accepting a non-volunteer assignment, uprooting your family and learning a completely new job when you were confident and comfortable where you were. Sometimes it means we miss holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or the birth of a child because we're deployed to locations around the globe. In short, we know service -- we live it.

I challenge you to ask three people what service before self means to them, and I imagine you will receive three very different answers. Some believe service requires you to abandon the needs of your family, your off-duty activities or higher education goals. In fact, giving attention to these things can make you into a better Airman.

Spending time with friends and family gives you emotional stability. Knowing that family needs are taken care of allows you to focus on the mission. Off-duty activities bring enjoyment and much needed stress-relief to your life. Pursuing a higher education broadens your mind, is a path to promotion and helps to create a more educated, innovative force.

All of these things increase resilience and help develop Airmen into well-rounded, grounded members capable of bearing the stresses that service brings. The difference is that sometimes service will require us to make sacrifices, and we must be prepared to accept that. The easiest way to serve your country is to simply be a good Airman.

Military members are tasked with the great responsibility to protect the freedoms that our forefathers died for. We freely accept the obligation, knowing that the time may come when we pay the ultimate price, to give the ultimate sacrifice to defend our nation and our freedom -- our lives.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to our country, whether we are born into it or came to accept it later as the price for citizenship. We owe our freedom to those that came before us, those that laid down their lives so that we could live in a free nation. Military members and their families understand this debt on a more intimate level, but it's something we don't often think about because for us, service is a way of life.

I'm honored that I have a chance to serve my country because she has done so much for me. Ask yourself what you can do for your country, what you are willing to give, and why.