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Keep Your Most Valued Relationships Strong

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- If you are like me, Valentine's Day is always a stressful holiday. As children, we worry about whether our decorated bag receives as many cards as others. When lacking a significant romantic partner, the day serves as a painful reminder of that fact. When in a romantic relationship, we worry we will forget the day or make some other significant blunder to dramatically diminish the day for the one we love.

Perhaps the stress is driven, in part, by our overemphasis on one single day or one single relationship. Would not all of our closest relationships--romantic or otherwise--benefit from renewed focus throughout the year? Too often we prioritize these close relationships high for one day in February and then allow other demands to divert our attention.

All new squadron commanders had opportunity to be mentored by our Air Force Space Command leaders last summer. Of the multiple outstanding leadership lessons shared, guidance to avoid neglecting those about whom we care most, was especially memorable to me. Our leaders at senior levels frequently re-emphasized the point--when our service to our country is complete, we ultimately return to roles defined not by our accomplishments, but rather by our closest relationships.

Do not mistake. Service before self remains a critically important component to our success as a military and we must be willing to sacrifice many things, both personally and as military families. I do not believe, however, that placing service before self requires sacrificing those relationships most dear to us. If our military is only as strong as those of us which compose it, we, individually, are only as strong as the relationships we sustain. We must purposefully and constantly seek to keep those relationships strong!

How you achieve that strength is certainly a personal matter. Might I suggest that foregoing the expected gift giving that comes with the day is likely not the smartest approach? On top of seasonal expectations and stresses, however, let us each take time to re-assess the ongoing health of all our important relationships. Our Air Force will certainly be better because of it!