Learning to 'do the right thing'

  • Published
  • By Col. Bruce Bowers
  • 446th AW Commander

We are all the products of the men and women who came before us. They are family, friends, and brothers and sisters in our "profession of arms."

I recently had the pleasure of hosting Col. H. Charles "Chuck" Hodges Jr., commander of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, here at the 446th Airlift Wing. Colonel Hodges has the unique role of commanding both Airmen and Soldiers at this base. He has done this by being a friend to both Airmen and Soldiers -- never taking sides or making emotional decisions. The foundation of his efforts are based on friendship, trust, and just trying to do the "right thing" -- across all service, doctrinal and cultural boundaries.

Over the years I've heard, Airmen described as blue, Soldiers described as green and joint service members described as purple. I'd offer Colonel Hodges' colors are red, white and blue.

As our meeting concluded, he began looking around my office -- I do the same thing when I visit other work areas. I do it to see the type of items, mementoes, plaques, trinkets, and things fellow Airmen hold dear. I feel I gain a little insight into the makeup of that individual.

Colonel Hodges looked at some dog-eared books I keep on the shelf and some plaques from previous assignments. I also have several photos around the office and he looked at it all without word until he came across a faded black and white picture of an Army staff sergeant hanging directly over the desk in my office.

The picture is circa 1960s. The Soldier has a flat-top hairstyle and is wearing a starched khaki uniform that looks as though it could stand by itself. The high neck white T-shirt is prominent in the picture. It's obviously a picture of a young Soldier who is very proud of the uniform he's wearing.

The Soldier is wearing an 8th Army patch on the right shoulder as well as crossed brass pistols on his lapel. All these clues tell a story and a history of time spent in the military, in combat and in functional areas that Soldier had been trained to perform.

Colonel Hodges asked how the picture of an Army NCO ended up hanging over the desk of an Air Force wing commander.

I told him the picture was of my dad. It's a picture of him in his 30s. It's a picture of a young Soldier with fire in his eyes and dedication in his heart. It's the picture I see when I meet every young Soldier.

There's nothing especially significant about the picture except I knew this Soldier. He was my friend -- my dad.

My dad died not long after that picture was taken. I still think of him often, normally during times when I'm trying to figure out "the right thing." He taught me so much as a young man about doing the right thing. That young Soldier was the most important person in my life.

He still helps me "do the right thing."