You make a difference

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Editha Heberlein
  • 341st Medical Support Squadron commander
Chances are you made a New Year's resolution. I challenge you to reflect on what you are grateful for in 2012. It might not be clear to you how what you do day-to-day fits in nuclear deterrence or the bigger Air Force mission, but what you do makes a difference. Take the time to write a gratitude list on who or what helped you achieve your goals in 2012. Here is what made top ten on my gratitude list...not in any particular order.

1. I am grateful for the U.S. Military and for the great people I have worked with. They have given meaning to "Service Before Self." I believe that people come to work with the intention of doing their best. Let us create the environment that allows everyone to reach their greatest potential. The cream will rise to the top.

2. I am grateful for the gift of good health. One of the main reasons I joined the military is to keep fit. I know I have a standard to keep and it keeps me aware when I missed working out three days in a row or I gained five pounds over the holidays. I don't beat myself up about it. I pick up the pieces and get back on track. It is not only important to know your fitness status 365 days a year (not just your push-ups, sit-ups and run time) but also know your health risks. Know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar numbers and if they are within acceptable limits.

3. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience cultural diversity. Cultural competence can make or break a mission. The more we understand another culture, the more we are accepting of our differences. Try not to be "that American" who is culturally inept making insensitive comments about another culture because it is different than the American way. Take the time to learn how to say "thank you" in another language or try a new ethnic dish.

4. I am grateful for my adopted country, for all the great opportunities afforded to me and for the freedom to celebrate my heritage. Although I do not agree with "the American way" all the time, America is still the greatest place to live.

5. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel. I have been to all 50 United States and to 45 countries on five continents. I am grateful for the fond memories of roaming the gorgeous subways of Moscow, taking the ferry from Argentina to Uruguay to practice my Spanish, riding in the belly of KC-135 from South Africa to RAF Mildenhall, talking to Paraguay children in Spanish about nutrition, and visiting medical clinics in Africa and Eastern Europe. Australia and Antarctica are on my bucket list. Travel was not a reason I joined the military but I am grateful for the people I met along the way that expanded my cultural awareness.

6. I am grateful to my parents for instilling in me the value of education. Education is the foundation for all that I have been able to do. The military provides numerous educational opportunities. Take advantage of these benefits.

7. I am grateful for all of my mentors who were instrumental in my ability to practice as a dietitian in the U.S. and inspired me to join the military. The best way to thank your mentors is to become a mentor yourself and make a positive difference in someone's life.

8. I am grateful for my children for making a difference in their own rights. They taught me humility and kindness. Our jobs as parents are to prepare our children to be independent. Do not take this responsibility lightly - they represent our future.

9. I am grateful for my husband of 33 years who is the wind beneath my wings. On an October weekend in 1992, he retired from the U.S. Army on a Friday and I reported to my first U.S. Air Force duty station the following Monday. Stop and thank your significant others for all their sacrifices.

10. Last, but not least, I am grateful to God for the gift of faith and for #1 to #9 (all the blessings in my life). I believe there is plan for all of us. I believe that our purpose here on Earth is to make things better than how we found it, be respectful of one another and to make a positive difference in our own way.

This time of the year allows us to reflect on our contributions and how we made a difference. "It's a Wonderful Life" is a 1946 James Stewart movie and a holiday favorite that reminds us that we make a difference whether we know it or not. As you take a moment and reflect on what you are grateful for, I wish you all "Manigong Bagong Taon!" That is "Have a Prosperous New Year!" in Tagalog. May 2013 bring peace, contentment, better cultural understanding and tolerance globally. I pray that our deployed military and everyone supporting the peace effort all over the world be safely returned to their loved ones. Maraming salamat po. "Thank you very much."