This I Believe

Tiffany - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Entered on October 30, 2006

His Greatest Honor

Webster’s Dictionary defines integrity as “steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code”. However, I have formulated my own definition of integrity as I have grown up. My father has always shown me integrity in his actions, not just in his words.

I remember seeing my father dressed in his crisp, clean uniform adorned with big, bright medals. The vision and sound of shiny, silver and gold medals clanging closely to his chest is a very vivid childhood memory. In the Navy world, they all meant something different, but to me, they all stood for the same thing: integrity. He defended this country and sacrificed watching his only daughter graduate kindergarten, dance at her first recital, or have her sweet sixteen. Why? Because it was “the right thing to do.”

I have learned the value of always doing the right thing by watching my father. His faithfulness in always doing what was right gave me something to admire. I can remember many Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays that were not spent at home, but spent in hospitals, churches, nursing homes, or shelters. He made me volunteer at every holiday to serve those who were less fortunate than me. I always asked him why we couldn’t just stay at home like everyone else. His response was consistent, “because it is the right thing to do.” Toddler toys wrapped with beautiful bows were given to children dying in hospitals. Hot, homemade dinner served to those who could not afford a holiday meal otherwise. This is how we spend our family holidays. We spend our holidays this way because my father wanted to teach me the value of living my life to benefit other people. Having integrity was not just a show, but a way of life that my father taught me.

He always stood up for what was right, even if he stood alone. When people would pass by a homeless man standing in the rain, my father would go buy him a jacket and a warm meal. When I asked my father why he stopped when no one else did, he simply stated because, “it was the right thing to do.”

From being a friend to strangers to being a highly decorated war hero and everything in between, he did it. I saw firsthand the impact of always having integrity. Lending a helping hand, giving to those in need, and being kind to everyone that I meet have proved to be significant life lessons that I learned from my father.

I believe in integrity. I am only going to get one chance at my own life; therefore, I want it to be worthwhile. I want to be remembered as a moral, sound, fair, kind, and honest individual that lived her life with integrity. To me, that is the greatest honor, as well as the greatest unspoken lesson that I have ever learned from my father.