Be prepared for the unexpected

  • Published
  • By Major Kevin O'Connor
  • 56th Maintenance Operations Squadron
What do you want to be remembered for? If you passed away unexpectedly, what would your obituary say?

Would your family be taken care of financially with a plan for the future? If you are single, will the state you are residing in decide where your belongings go? Or are you prepared and taking care of your responsibilities?

This is quite a lot to think about, however these are important issues every Airman should be familiar with. It's every Airman' s responsibility.

Let's start with the subject of how people should or want to be remembered. This is something that I have purposefully pondered several times in the last month due to some good and bad events that have transpired in my family and squadron. October began just like any month except my wife and I volunteered to feed our son's varsity high school football team before their homecoming game. They always hold their traditional circle after they eat to discuss various subjects on leadership and responsibility. This particular session dealt with how they wanted their obituaries to read. The two most popular answers from the whole football team were being known as a good friend and being accountable for their actions. Wow, there is hope for our future generation of teenagers. Seriously, we can learn a lot from our children. They hit the nail on the head with all of their answers, not just the top two.

My thoughts to answer this question as a husband and father were to be remembered as a great family man, to have taken care of each member of my family to the best extent possible. Also, as a military officer and good citizen, to be well known for showing each person I met or worked with the proper respect and dignity they deserve as human beings while remembering the proper customs and courtesies. Finally, as a commander, ensuring I always do the right thing for the mission, personnel or unit whether or not it's the most popular decision or action.

The football team's answers can easily be translated into an Air Force member's career. First, they want to be remembered for taking care of their friends. We've heard this same theory in the Air Force, only we call it a good wingman. We learn this fundamental lesson as a child growing up as it applies to family members and friends from schools, neighborhoods or various teams. It is imperative that we take care of each other, especially with the transformation the Air Force is going through right now. People have always been our most precious resource; even more so now. We can ill afford to stand by and let our co-workers and peers make poor decisions. It is our duty to stay engaged and be proactive as Air Force members.

Secondly, the football team said they wanted to be accountable for their actions. This answer falls in direct line with all three of our core values in many different ways, but more specifically with integrity first. There is no doubt that a person with great character will always do the right thing and remain accountable or their actions. It's pretty simple; don't do anything you are not prepared to answer for in the end.

Accountability is the second subject from the football team's discussion and is directly tied to the first. Are you preparing for the future, good or bad? Gen. William Looney, Air Education and Training Command commander, stated a top priority is taking care of your family. Having a plan for your family's security is definitely a major part of General Looney's expectations. So, are you setting them up for success if you can't be there to take care of them in the future?

At the beginning of the month, my squadron laid to rest one of our own civilian employees, a great patriot and an important part of the Roadrunner family. This is something you don't want to do as a new or experienced commander. However, our family liaison officers have to deal with these tragedies every time someone in the active duty Air Force or, in this case, Department of Defense civilian employee's family passes away. There are several items that every family needs to attend to as soon as possible to prevent additional anguish upon the family and unit when dealing with a death. For starters, did the individual have a will? All military members and DOD beneficiaries can go to the legal office on base and start a will. It's very simple and takes one appointment to complete. Current wills should be updated regularly as well.

Every time there is a significant change in the family, such as a birth, death or a permanent change of station, wills should updated.

Secondly, did the individual have life insurance? This simple part of the planning process can bring a spouse's peace of mind, knowing that everything is set for the future. As with a will, always update insurance beneficiaries when changes occur in the household.

A power of attorney may also be necessary. There are several types and the legal office can help with selecting the right one. It is also necessary for readiness status for deployments. Each military member is required to have both a power of attorney and will prior to deployment.

One last item that will help a member's family and squadron is finalizing a burial plan. Most people have a hard time with the grieving process, so planning a burial may be the furthest thing from their minds. The best choice is to plan in advance. Again, it is each member's responsibility, so step up and be accountable because it's the right thing to do.

One last side note, a funeral accompanied by the base honor guard is a significant event. These young men and women execute one of the most important military traditions to grieving families with professionalism and dedication. These individuals are in touch with honoring the services of veterans. The honor guard represents everything the Air Force is about to the families of fallen veterans. They do an outstanding job.