Moving at the speed of life

  • Published
  • By Capt. Richard C. Sanford
  • 301st Fighter Wing
People are alike in that we seem to all start out in life at the same speed, but we each have our own obstacle course. Some obstacles never change your momentum, others slow you down a little bit — or a lot —but some obstacles stop you dead in your tracks.
I have always liked things that fly high and move fast —especially rockets! As a kid, I dreamed of sitting on top of a mighty Atlas booster, full of kerosene and liquid oxygen, (please, no smoking within 500 feet) and blasting off to set a new world orbiting record — the white-hot plume trailing for miles behind me. 

But, since being an astronaut wasn’t feasible at age eight, I opted for the cheaper, environmentally-friendly and less volatile water-powered rockets from Sterling’s Discount Store, or if I were low on dough, the even less-expensive Hi-Flier kites from Cox’s corner “Valu-Pak.” At least the kites had a picture of a rocket on them. 

At that time in my existence, an obstacle was a seemingly unbearable thing like Mrs. Davis’ pecan tree — that appeared to reach up with its branches and devour a brand new kite — even while on its maiden flight and still giving off its lovely, fresh plastic fragrance! But, I remember my dad tapping me on my shoulder and saying, “You know, son, if you would fly that kite in the open lot across the street, you wouldn’t have to worry about the pecan tree.” Problem solved! My kites soared high above the earth after that. 

Then, of course, there were the annoying Watergate bulletins that would rudely interrupt the afternoon Bozo Show—and good luck finding anything better to watch on the other TWO networks at that time. 

For an eight year-old, though, the nightmare scenario would have been Mom suddenly moving her ironing board just behind where I was sitting (directly in front of the Magnavox) and switching the program to something nauseating like “The Doctors” or “Another World.” 

As I got older, however, I realized that the kite and pecan tree problem or missing the Bozo Show were insignificant mishaps compared to terrifying high school chemistry tests or semester finals at the university. I also learned to make my obstacles less menacing by doing things like actually studying for the semester finals rather than trying to take them by chance. Making smart choices kind of goes back to Dad’s simple solution of keeping the kite away from the tree. Sometimes you just have to stop and do a little thinking. 

Along the way in life, you hear about people “bouncing back” from their obstacles. And, you’re told that “no matter how big the problem is, you can always bounce back.” 

Well, after nearly forty years on my obstacle course, I don’t believe this is true. A good friend of mine in the Montana Air Guard—who I believe would have been one of the best F-16 pilots in the country—fell asleep at the wheel, had a wreck, and never even made it through Undergraduate Pilot Training. In fact, he was lucky to be alive after experiencing more than a month of coma. I have had other friends and acquaintances end their careers and even their lives by making the conscious choice to drink alcohol while driving, be careless with firearms, or from a myriad of other insurmountable obstacles. 

I received news just yesterday that the 22 year-old son of yet another friend of mine lies unconscious in a trauma center at this very moment, having just had a foot amputated. May God mercifully forbid, but his kidneys are failing, and he may not live. He flipped his truck while going too fast around a curve on a highway. 

Life’s obstacle course is tough enough as it is — don’t make it harder by making intentionally dangerous choices. Summer is upon us and the speed of life gets accelerated. Please stop and think about what you’re doing before you, too, discover that overwhelming yet otherwise avoidable obstacle on your course in life. 

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I would like to thank General Rohan for giving me the opportunity to be the Public Affairs Officer and part of his special staff. Thanks to my full-time and part-time staff in the 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs office. These two years for me here will always be the height of my military career. I will transfer to a Public Affairs position at Tenth Air Force, and I hope to continue my career there as a traditional reservist for a very long time; I am sure that I will see many of you over the UTA weekends. 

Always remember that the public loves you, they are always interested in what you are doing, and they care about you as fellow citizens and military members. I have had the high honor of telling the public about the brave things that you do for your country, and I can’t thank you enough for your hard work and dedication to our nation’s defense.
Finally, I want to say to you, set your goals at the top and reach for them. My job here with you was a longtime dream-come-true for me, and I’m glad to say that I will “see you around.”
Public Affairs (817) 782-5000