Don't pass them by

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- I can still remember the day. It was cold outside, and with my parka in tow, I walked approximately a quarter-mile from one supply building to the next. My mission was to see the noncommissioned officer leading the upcoming squadron change of command.

As I entered the building and walked down the hallway, I came across Chief Master Sgt. Gilmore, the squadron superintendent. Now, Chief Gilmore was extremely busy and, being new to the squadron, I hadn't had the chance to interact with him other than listen at daily roll calls.

I, being the typical one-striper, tried to avoid him. However, something great happened that day - Chief Gilmore addressed me first, without waiting to see if I would do the same. Not only did he say hello, but he stopped long enough to get to know me a bit. We proceeded together down the hall and stopped at his office. He asked me if I wanted to sit; I declined. "Well," he said, "I guess I'll stand too." Curious, I asked why. He suggested it was a matter of respect. You see, his thoughts were: No matter the rank, we are all human beings who deserve respect, and further, we are all vital members of the greatest team -- the team he called "America's defenders." He shared his huge respect for all those he served with because of their devotion to something higher than themselves. He felt he couldn't walk by someone without acknowledging him or her. What a great leader, warrior, and wingman Chief was - what a terrific lesson I learned.

I tell this story because it highlights what I believe is an issue here at Buckley. Sure, we salute and greet officers as required, but is that done because it is a "must" or because one of your brothers- or sisters-in-arms deserves the pause in time? When you walk by others in the hallway or on the sidewalk, whether you know them or not, do you say hello - do you make them feel part of your family - military family that is?

Additionally and just as importantly, in my book, do you display the same amount of respect for the most junior warrior as you do the most senior? Yes, rank has certain privileges, but that is a much different concept than how you pay respect to others. Nobody is more important than the next, and your attitude toward others should not be dependent upon rank or mandatory compliance with an instruction. It should be because they defend this country with their lives just like you. It should be because they are someone's sons and daughters, and their mothers and fathers expect that from this great institution. It ought to be because we believe in them.

We are trying to build a strong sense of community at Buckley. The way you interact with one another can help us get there. Don't pass on an opportunity to say hello.