Integrity is something few people talk about much anymore. Think about that for a moment, when is the last time you heard someone talk about a person’s high integrity? In a divided country fighting a pandemic, integrity is not the main topic of conversation these days. It seems as if collectively we have accepted “The means justify the end” mindset.
The irony is that if integrity was a way of life, from family up to the highest level of government, maybe 2020 wouldn’t seem so much like end times. Knowing that when someone gave you their word, that was it. No need to ask any other questions. No fake news and propaganda. No exaggeration and hyperbole. Just their word…Right between the eyes.
Oftentimes, lack of integrity compounds the original misdeed more than the sin itself. Which brings me back to a time in the Air Force where I let 30 seconds undermine my integrity.
Basic training 1987 in San Antonio Texas. Boot camp for those who want the real definition. One thing that seemed to piss off Drill Instructors more than the barrage of long hair and t-shirt’s that snuck into “their” military was the gentle art of shaving. Drill Instructors love clean shaven young recruits, but they required that close shave to be executed within 30 seconds. The result was lots of bloody faces, tears, and pain.
The military is all about adapting and overcoming, so I quickly discovered that if I only shaved my face, and not my neck, I could save lots of time. The plan was pretty fool proof if I remembered to touch up my neck later at night when I had more time. I got away with that little work around until I didn’t.
That sunny Texas morning Sgt. Earhart looked me up and down and finally asked, “Did you shave Airman!”. Of course I shaved, I had a diabolical system, so I popped off “Sir yes Sir”. He began to question me over and over if I was sure I shaved, and if I shaved my entire face. I continued to yell at the top of my young recruit lungs that I had, in fact, shaved. “Even your neck” he screamed. Well, no, not my neck. Wow, I just found the one thing that pissed of this Sgt. more than scruffy Airmen…..Integrity.
When I finally admitted that I only shaved my face, push-ups and administrative punishment was how I spent the rest of my day. To make his point really stick I was required to go around the base and teach other Airman the importance of integrity. I even had to go before the base commander and explain why the Air Force can’t run without integrity.
I’ll never forget as he looked at his watch and said “Son, I’m flying a plane to England in 20 minutes, what is all this about you not shaving your neck and lying about it”. It was it that moment an 18 year old kid learned that it takes a lifetime to become a person of character and integrity, but you can lose it all in 30 seconds.
To this day, whenever I shave, I always start with my neck….You know, just in case.