Tag Archives: trust

Legacy project

By Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton
501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

He fumbled with the blue, index cards as he leaned into the microphone and spoke to a crowded room.

After 23 years, this was the last time he would wear the U.S. Air Force uniform. He was retiring, and May 8, 2015, was the last day anyone would call him Master Sgt. Shawn Leach.

“Life happens,” he began, slowly. “Your career is going to be like a rollercoaster. My career was like one.”

Retirement rollercoaster
Master Sgt. Shawn Leach, 501st Combat Support Wing emergency management superintendent, looks over a set of index cards before delivering a speech during his retirement ceremony at RAF Alconbury, England, May 8, 2015. Leach said his U.S. Air Force career was like a rollercoaster, full of ups, downs, twists and turns. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton/Released)

Continue reading Legacy project

Plan ahead: it’s our duty

by Airman 1st Class Alexander W. Riedel, Defense Media Activity Air Force Production

Last year, I dealt with the deaths of two people close to me.

Air Force Week kicks off in New York City

In September, my father passed away unexpectedly at the age of 59, due to an illness. The man I thought to be indestructible suddenly was gone.

Almost exactly two months later, a long-time friend also passed away in the hospital, when complications occurred during a routine surgery. Only a few weeks before, the young athlete had celebrated his 25th birthday.

All I wanted during that time was to retreat and deal with my grief. However, my family was left not just with the emotional pain, but also the dreadful duties of arranging funeral proceedings and disposing of my father’s personal belongings. Needless to say, I didn’t like the tasks at hand.

Although he lived in a clean household, my father’s many financial and legal documents were only haphazardly filed in rows of unmarked binders, threatening to come tumbling off the shelf in an avalanche of paper. His bank information was hidden in a random cabinet, and nothing was labeled or sorted in any distinguishable order or system.

After I returned to my own apartment, I quickly realized my own passing wouldn’t make it much easier for my survivors. While I consider myself to be a tidy person, my apartment is still full of individualized organization that sometimes even makes my wife wonder where I filed the last utility bill.

My friend’s passing especially sent the frightening message that while death at any age is tragic to family and friends, it can happen to anybody, at any time.

I invite you to consider this: If you were to die, how long would it take people to find the things that matter among the unnecessary clutter we often accumulate in life? Are your important documents easily accessible, and does somebody know where to find them?

Luckily, a few simply steps can make a big difference to those left behind.

Why your will will matter

According to the Air Force Legal Assistance website, a last will and testament is a legal document you use to dispose of your property at your death. It may also name people to do important jobs, such as a personal representative or executor of your estate, a trustee if you have established a trust and guardians for minor children.

One of the worst things about my dad’s passing was that he did not leave instructions or wishes. For my family, this meant we had to discuss thoroughly how and where my dad would have liked to have been buried, what to do with his car, furniture and the rest of his possessions.

If my father had had a will, a lot of those questions would’ve been answered for us and the “next steps” would have been expedited.

The most important part about creating a will is simply starting one. Luckily, a will does not take effect until your death and can be discarded and renewed anytime a change in life occurs.

Almost as important as creating and maintaining a will, however, is also making it accessible and safe, keeping it in a fireproof box, for example. As my experience with my father’s bank information showed, documentation does no good unless somebody knows where to find it when it matters.

‘The uninsured life is not worth leaving’

While I was aware that a funeral costs money, the many small expenditures connected to a burial were a surprise to me. From the casket to the headstone, from coffee for funeral attendees to burial plot fees — unexpected expenses quickly rack up.

Life insurance could have alleviated this problem. It is intended to replace the initial loss of income, pay estate taxes, debts and cover funeral costs to the family. Unfortunately, my father did not have a policy, leaving those costs to be covered by his hardly accessible bank account, his remaining paycheck and the rest by his family.

Every active-duty service member, of course, is eligible for the Service Member’s Group Life Insurance, a term life insurance. That means it does not build cash value over time and only provides coverage for the assigned term only. This is an excellent way to protect against premature death on a strictly temporary basis — an example being military duty.

A variety of cash value insurance is available to provide a lasting insurance asset in the form of a cash accumulation account. For military members, it is important to check whether such policies have a “war clause,” preventing their beneficiaries to collect if the service member is killed in war or on duty.

Service members should also make sure that their SGLI is updated regularly to reflect the desired beneficiaries.

Privacy in life, access after death

In addition, there are more private issues to deal with. As I scoured my dad’s house for photos, letters, important documents and memorabilia important to my memory of him, I realized many were digital photos saved on hard drives and his pass-coded computer.

This left many of his photos and favorite music, email accounts and social media, for example, nearly inaccessible and his computer as a vault to the information contained inside.

Consider preparing a list of passwords to your computer and online accounts, so others can access your digital documents even when they don’t share your computer on a regular basis.

Naturally, such a listing should be kept in a safe place, a sealed envelope and safe deposit box; but make sure the bank does not seal or limit access to it after your death.

Talking it over

Finally, more important than legal preparation may be the open conversation with those closest to you. While speaking about your own death may seem callous, it can make it easier for your family to meet your wishes.

Will your family know whether you wanted to be cremated or not, for example? Where you would like to be buried or what you would like your headstone to look like?

I’m not suggesting we live in fear of death every day — but you never know what life has in store for you. After all, not one of us is indestructible.

Instead, I suggest that as Airmen we have a duty not only to our service, but also to our next of kin, our loved ones — those who have already enough to deal with after we’re gone. It’s better to prepare now, before it’s too late.

If you haven’t already, strive to get your things in order and plan ahead for those you love.

For more information on how to establish a will and what Airmen should do to prepare, visit the U.S. Air Force Legal Assistance website, where you can also locate contact information for your local legal office.

Strengthening our core

 

 Integrity, Service, ExcellenceBy Col. Jim Dryjanski
National War College

The greatest threat to the United States Air Force right now is not external. It is from within. The allegations of sexual misconduct at Lackland Air Force Base splashed across the news will undoubtedly be fully investigated and criminal behavior will be prosecuted appropriately.

The victims will be heard and they will be cared for, but the bell cannot be unrung. The reverberations from “Jerry Springer-esque” moral failure can shake public trust.

Senior leaders of our Air Force and the Department of Defense will look deeply, far beyond the current trial, to see if there are any institutional root causes in climate, leadership, training and oversight that need to be addressed.

We can expect some necessary actions to be taken, but will disciplinary action or the implementation of recommendations from various independent top-down strategic reviews be sufficient? Probably not, if we as Airmen don’t recognize the moral battle being waged or fail to act from the grassroots-level to strengthen our core. The stakes are incredibly high–so should be our attention and urgency.

Lackland Air Force Base is known as the “Gateway to the Air Force.” Every enlisted trainee must pass through this training crucible in order to earn the title of “Airman.” The center of our identity as Airmen is found in our core values: Integrity first, Service before Self, and Excellence in all we do. Every Airmen can spout these core values…Integrity, Service, Excellence are easy to remember and easy to say, just as former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Fogleman designed them. So what’s the problem?

The words Integrity, Service, and Excellence are ubiquitous in our Air Force. Like the sound of a dripping faucet they can fade into the background over time. They are on power point slides, on wall-hangings in various offices, and they are all over the social media outlets of our Service. But, are they only words? Only words to be recited in speeches by commanders and enlisted leaders? Only words to be cited by those very same leaders when an Airmen breaks a rule or regulation?

Yes, they are…if we let them be. If we lose sight of the moral truth that our core values are grounded in, these mere words of Integrity, Service, and Excellence lose their true meaning and true power.

Sunshine is often the best antiseptic. Increasing transparency of our training and strengthening the accountability of our instructors at Basic Military Training in this light will help. But, more broadly, all Airmen in our Air Force should use this opportunity to illuminate why our Core Values are much more than mere words.

Let’s be clear about one thing, the vast majority of our Airmen–like their joint brothers and sisters in arms, are honorably serving our nation at a very critical time in our history. They are among the very best our nation has to offer, and they are making the extraordinary look ordinary around the globe every single day. That said, no Airman is exempt from the temptation in life to do the easier wrong, rather than the harder right. We must be prepared to win this battle every single day..

It is up to Airmen–wingmen, leaders, warriors to calibrate our moral compasses to true north and give life to our Core Values where the rubber meets the road during our toughest times.. Lou Holtz, former head football coach at Notre Dame, had a great way of boiling complex ideas down to their essence. He has said there are three questions people have when they meet you.

Can I trust you?
Do you care about me?
Are you committed to excellence?

If “yes” is the answer to those questions, people want you on their team. How do you get to “yes?” Holtz has three rules to live by.

Do the right thing.
Care about people.
Do your best.

Simple and profound rules to live by and strengthen our core and our team: Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in all we do.

Aim High…Fly, Fight and Win!

Photos: The Air Force core values are integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.  (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)