Doing the Right Thing

CJ - Huntsville, Alabama
Entered on March 7, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50

People who know me now would not recognize me as a teenager. Likewise, my teenage friends would be surprised to see all I’ve been able to accomplish. I wasn’t one of those kids who made all the right decisions growing up in spite of my parents’ insistent advice.

Growing up, my father who was a Command Master Chief, the highest enlisted rank in the Navy, would always caution us to “choose the hard right over the easy wrong.” The problem was that the easy wrong was, well, just so easy. This attitude naturally created a lot of problems growing up.

One day, I decided to turn my life around and join the military. My mother taught us that “the world is comprised of more than just you and me.” With that advice, I decided to do something for “them” and enlisted into the Army. It wasn’t an easy choice and I didn’t get the recruiters a free pass. They had to work for this enlistment and I’m sure they often felt that this purple-headed, punk kid probably wasn’t worth the trouble.

I’m humbled that they took the challenge to get me into the Army. As it turned out, the Army and I were a perfect. I had to learn that I wasn’t the center of the universe and how to work as a team player to accomplish tasks.

It wasn’t always easy. There were temptations to expedite tasks by cutting corners, but those words always rang in my ears: “choose the hard right over the easy wrong”. While this tended to mean we spent longer on a task initially, in the end it saved us all kinds of time. All too often, my squads and platoons were finished well ahead of the others who were dealing with the effects of cutting corners and redoing their work the right way.

It was during these times that my mother’s advice would prevail: “the world is bigger than you and me.” Instead of sitting around and gloating, we would go out and assist those other squads and platoons in finishing their tasks.

The unexpected side effect of making these choices was a quick ascension through the enlisted ranks. In less than 15 years, I am being considered for promotion to Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank in the Army. And all because I chose the hard right over the easy wrong and tried to help those around me as much as possible.