My husband and I were at dinner a few weeks ago and we were discussing my retirement. He asked me, “What’s your legacy?” As I get ready to retire after 30 years in the Air Force, I started reflecting.
Legacy is defined as “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor: the legacy of ancient Rome.” Legacy is something you enjoy creating now with those around you, then leave it behind knowing it will continue to benefit the lives of others.
Looking back on my life, I saw legacy leavers everywhere, starting with my parents, who taught me that integrity, hard work and perseverance will take me far in life. They left me with instructions on how to live.
I joined the military in 1977 at age 18. As I progressed through my career, there were many people before me whose legacy was apparent in my day-to-day actions as well as many people around me.
As I sit here and continue to think about my legacy, I begin to think about the foundation I was given as an Airman. I was an outspoken Airman who felt everything was about me and what I wanted to do versus what my supervisor needed me to do. This is where I learned about the importance of service before self. This way of thinking changed when my supervisor sat me down and provided me with a feedback session that I believe changed my career. I could continue to be self-centered or be a part of the Air Force mission. I chose the mission.
As an NCO, my foundation grew stronger. I knew I had a voice and could make a difference when the people around me not only heard me but actually listened to what I had to say. I also had supervisors who challenged me with more responsibility and saw great potential in me. The question is simple: “Where do you see unrealized potential in your Airmen, and how do you unleash it?”
Everyday you are leaving your legacy — both by your actions and words. Make sure you lead by example, not only by what you say, but also with what you do. Remember to share the lessons that have meant the most to you.
As my life has evolved and changed over the years, I believe I’ve helped others with my experiences and knowledge in an “each one teach one” way.
As I approach the end of my military career and continue with my journey in life, my legacy will stand. Will yours?