Learning to lose

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Farrell Dottin
  • 51st Force Support Squadron
In the U.S. Air Force, we as Airmen are constantly drilled in our professions -- making sure we stay 100 percent ready to fly, fight, and win at any given moment. Amongst us, there are those held to a higher standard to guide others down the right path, and keep the force strong and ready. However, even as Airmen, we can sometimes forget that we are human and vulnerable to the happenings around us. So when we do lose at something or something dear to us is taken away, it seems foreign and even unfair as we go through those trials and tribulations.

I am no exception.

Up until about a month ago, I was the NCO in charge of the base honor guard; However, all that changed when I received a non-judicial punishment. Still in the spirit of trying to stay on top of things, I pleaded with my commander to try to keep my job, but as it would have it, no ceremonial guardsman will have administrative or disciplinary actions against them, and this, something that I have known and done for seven years, would be taken from me.

Two weekends ago, I learned that a friend back home in the U.S. died in a car accident. Then just recently, the passing of Tech. Sgt. Ricky Yamaoka, a friend and mentor from my last base, also stationed here at Osan, passed away from a severe illness contracted while he was on leave visiting his newly wedded wife.

In my whole life, I have never tried to deal with so much at one time. However, I have to keep performing my job admirably -- the way I have been taught since I first put on the ceremonial uniform. When my friend in the states died, I called my family and told them I loved them, but I didn't tell them what was going on, but when Yamaoka died, I lost it. I questioned a human's endurance in the quantity of pain and suffering, and I could not stand to lose much more.

I realized this is a time to be humble. Expressionless faces in the honor guard are the norm during ceremonies, and you would not be able to tell that something is wrong. But when somebody is having an off day, be sure to call them aside and make sure they are doing alright, because we all have off-days. The blame was on me to identify what was wrong with me. So I talked with my chaplain, my team, and my first sergeant. I wept for my friends. And for the first time in a long time, I accepted a great loss.

Recently, the Secretary, Chief of Staff and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force have all harped on the idea of resiliency, the ability to bounce back from a hardship, no matter how large. What I have been doing is not bouncing. I have been stretching to fit the burden of a huge amount of loss in my life. But like every rubber band, balloon and bubble, if it gets too full, it pops, and the effects of that "pop" are life-lasting and sometimes permanent. Part of being resilient during life's ridiculously large obstacles is accepting the fact that sometimes those obstacles are too big! Taking these obstacles by one's self usually leads to almost immediate failure and sometimes we will lose regardless of the situation. We will lose valued teammates, valued family members, valued items and valued positions. Through my loss, I have learned that when we lose anything, it is normal to lament, but it is just as normal to ask for help so that we may pick ourselves up, wipe away the tears, brush ourselves off and continue the everyday fight.