“Earn your success based on service to others, not at the expense of others.” -H. Jackson Browne Jr.
In 9th grade, I had a teacher named Bill Aden. Mr. Alden was one of my favorites in high school for numerous reasons including his outside the box teaching style and the friendly and relaxed demeanor he had with the students.
He did things in the early 1980s that most teachers didn’t do and I still remember many of his lessons today. The longer I had Mr. Alden for a teacher, the more I learned about him.
One day in conversation, he revealed to me that before teaching he had been in the United States Air Force, which led to me learning he had been a pilot. A fighter pilot.
A little farther into our discussion I found out that not only had he been a fighter pilot, but he had been on the world famous “Thunderbirds” flight demonstration team. And had not only been a member, but their commander!
For those that don’t know, the “Thunderbirds” are the best of the best in the USAF and they perform at airshows around the world, demonstrating the abilities of American fighter planes.
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Today I look back and know that Colonel Bill Alden was one of the many people I have encountered that passionately displayed what service is. From volunteering to be on the cutting edge of military tech to transitioning into teaching high school students, Col. Alden’s passion was always to contribute to the greater good.
I recently learned he passed away a few years ago and regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to speak to him as an adult and tell him that his effort to make an impact on students was a successful one.
In my adult life I see many of those same positive attributes displayed every day. In just the past few days I have sat with staff from our local air-ambulance provider to brainstorm ways to more efficiently serve those who need medical assistance.
I have met with school officials and heard in their voice their dedication to protecting our students.
The opportunity to meet with those who service our veteran community also presented itself as first responders gathered to better evaluate how we handle encounters with veterans and the homeless.
Among each of these groups that play a role in helping society, the common thread is their desire to lift up their fellow citizen and help put them on a positive trajectory.
We have read in recent days that members of the NYPD have been attacked for simply doing their jobs and we listen and watch the news to see the losses this month of Deputy Sheriffs in Florida, Georgia, and Arkansas as well as a Tribal Police Officer.
We know that the violence comes in waves and see that 2019 is statistically might be a bit brighter than 2018, despite the open and blatant disrespect and aggression which is now the new norm for those who serve.
Each of our brothers and sisters kiss their spouses and kids and hit the road everyday (or night) to go out not to get shot at, but to make incremental improvements to their cities and counties much the way hundreds of thousands of other officers, firefighters, EMTs, nurses, and members of our military do each day.
If you pay any attention at all you might think the wheels are coming off of society.
Many pundits and even the casual observer may tell you that this generation is lost and without direction, but if you pause and look around you will see that the calling to serve something bigger than ourselves is still very much alive and well here in Texas, and all over the United States.
While some will say it’s a concept that is no longer incorporated into the fabric of our youth, I am here to tell you that not only is the call to serve engrained in a great many Americans, but it is a societal pillar that we MUST embrace and instill in those who follow in our footsteps.
Regardless of trash that the 24 hour news cycle tries to fill your head with, as servant leaders we can all contribute to growing the next generation of quality officers, knowing that it is our job to leave this place better than we found it.
Men like Col. Bill Alden knew this too, and I am a better person because of him.
It’s now our turn to make a positive impact. Let’s get to work.