This I Believe

James - Prattville, Alabama
Entered on January 20, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

I have one simple core value – duty. I have a duty to my God, my wife and family, my community, and my country. I also have a duty to those I choose to serve. Once you do your duty, everything else comes along naturally.

I was the search and rescue coordinator for the Sheriff’s Department in a county in Northern California. We received a call of a missing 11 autistic boy from his home in remote part of our county one blazing hot August day. My sergeant, who was my direct superior, was also on-scene. The sergeant’s son was playing in a championship soccer game but he was stuck at the search scene since he was ranking officer. After less than a half hour of just beginning the search, he announced that he had interviewed a neighbor, who saw the boy get on the school bus that morning. Even though we had not conducted a search in concert with our normal policies and procedures, it was his opinion that the boy was a runaway and the search should be called off. I knew I had not done my duty. I told my sergeant what I knew was a lie – that I would keep a few teams to search the area near the bus stop to see if we could find the missing child’s tracks.

As soon as he left, I radioed the other teams to return to the scene. We started a systematic search, like we should have done in the first place. Within an hour, one of teams located his tracks leading off into the woods. Within 15 minutes, the boy was located at the bottom of a 30-foot cliff with a badly dislocated hip. He had been there for almost 6 hours. We evacuated him to the hospital by helicopter and I later found out that the boy probably had an hour to live if we hadn’t found him.

This was a case where my core value of my duty to serve overcame any negative consequences, including getting fired and bought up on departmental charges for both disobeying a direct order and lying. If I had been wrong, I would have been in big trouble. I was willing to risk that because of my higher duty to serve the most important person in this scenario, the missing person. We were all lucky that day. I didn’t get fired and the boy lived, but my sense of duty drove me to make my decisions, not what might happen if I was wrong.

I believe that always doing your duty is what needed to live a good life. Everything else is fodder for sermons. Being willing to take the consequences for doing your duty, especially negative consequences, is a good indication of how strong your core value of duty really is.