Making things right

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- It was a chilly spring evening as I was driving home after spending some time with friends. My wife, who was nine months pregnant at the time, was sleeping soundly in the passenger seat. My only concern at the moment was to bring her home as quickly and safely as possible.

As I pulled up to the gate on base where we live, a 569th U.S. Forces Police Squadron entry controller there told me they were doing random safety checks, and I was their lucky winner.

Occasionally, security forces conducts checkpoints to ensure people coming in and out of the installation are obeying the law.

I was quite annoyed when I found I had to go through the process, but I knew resisting them would make things worse. So I begrudgingly pulled my vehicle over and slammed the gear into park.

As my turned off my engine, another Airman walked up and started reading the standard briefing:

“My name is (rank and name omitted), you have been selected for a random safety inspection …”

At that point, I cut him off saying, “I’ve heard this spiel before, let’s just get this over with!”

I’ve been pulled over for random checks more times than I care to remember, and that night I was tired of it. My past experiences and my unrealistic fear of what may happen accumulated like gas in a sealed bottle, and I popped.

The rest of the evening went by without incident, but as I drove off I was still fuming. “What a waste of time,” I thought to myself. “How dare they inconvenience me like that.”

For some reason, my mind hung on the word inconvenience.

As we got home, I started remembering times my wife and I talked about how happy we were to live on base.

“Aren’t we very blessed to live here,” she said. “We don’t have to pay house bills, it’s very peaceful, and it’s safe. We even have police patrolling the area, it’s literally a gated community!”

When I calmed down, I felt my conscience stab my heart. The same people I was being thankful for were the same people I just disrespected. I felt like such a wretch.

The next duty day, I wrote the following email to one of the security forces Airman on duty that night:

Good Morning (Rank and name omitted),

I want to apologize to you and the Airmen who worked with you for my behavior when I was going through your safety checkpoint last Saturday.

Although I did not curse the Airmen or resist the procedure, I was being rude by cutting them off in the middle of their talk and showing my displeasure. My behavior is unwarranted, unjustifiable, and unbecoming of an Airman.

Please do extend my apologies to the Airmen with you that evening.

Lastly, I want to thank you and all the other security forces Airmen for what you do: protecting the installation and the people therein. My family can sleep soundly at night because we know you are there. You sacrifice sleep and free time, stand in the sun and rain, and deal with the uglier face of the military, to ensure that the community is safe.

Therefore, being pulled over and checked for just a few minutes is a small price to pay for this peace of mind. Thank you for being who you are and doing what you do.
(End of email)

The Airman replied a couple days later saying he was surprised at my email, and thanked me for racking up the courage to apologize.

I believe the majority of people do not go about their day intending to be knuckleheads. I think pressure from bad experiences and bad days accumulate within someone, and if you push the right button at the right time, they explode.

But while we all go through inconveniences, we are always responsible for our behavior. No matter what you experience in life, remember that we are held to a higher standard. Don’t lose control when things get tough.

Furthermore, if you have wronged anyone, don’t be afraid to get back in touch with them and make things right. Nothing helps you see life more clearly than a clean conscience. Because as military members, we fight the enemy, not each other.