Recently a friend asked me, “What is one thing you appreciate?” A few responses ran through my head and “A cold glass of water on a hot day” sounded like a good answer. Instead, I decided to think on it. What’s something I really value and rely on? So I dug deep and answered with “I appreciate the company of people.”
Perhaps one of the reasons I enjoy Air Force ROTC so much is that I’m not alone in it. Waking up at five o’clock in the morning a couple days during the week certainly takes a toll. Having extra classes on top of taking tough classes for my major, attending drill practice and late meetings, are included. Forming up into a flight at six in the morning when it’s cold and windy really makes me miss my warm bed. Standing at attention on a parade field as I wait for my commander’s direction ends up feeling like I’ve been staring at the sky for an eternity. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the added responsibilities, but dealing with the stress becomes less arduous when I know I have others with me. I’m not the only person standing on that parade field. I’m not the only one with goosebumps at PT in the morning, wishing they could go back to sleep. When we start running and a fellow airman calls a jodie, everyone joins in to sing. The people I run with, plank with, and do lunges with, make getting through the pain possible.
I know that one day I will commission and my list of responsibilities will triple. However, I don’t dread that moment. When I receive my first assignment and it’s time to pack up and ship out to a new place, inevitably I’ll feel nervous. That moment will probably feel like how I felt during my first semester of college. Being thrown into a new place, with strangers, and no sense of home felt depressing and lonely. Only when I realized I was surrounded with people going through the same thing was I able to relax. I joined Air Force ROTC and immediately belonged somewhere. I see my peers in this organization as family. I can walk into our detachment lounge and feel at home. I can look forward to drill practice late at night because I know I’ll have friends there with me.
In a group setting, complaining spreads like the Santa Ana winds in Southern California. When one person complains about how cold they are, the next person will complain too. Consequently, the whole group begins complaining. Then morale drops even lower than mercury measuring the temperature outside. Camaraderie is undervalued sometimes. It’s what strengthens a team and gives people a reason to act. It’s what stops the complaining. What motivation do we have to face hardship when we are alone? Loneliness causes us to feel weak and isolated. It steals our incentives to continue working hard through suffering. Knowing that I’ve got a friend by my side helps me endure. I believe in appreciating the people around me. I believe in trusting my wingman and trusting that they will pull me out of a rut. I appreciate people because being with others beats the alternative.