Life is good

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Westermeyer
  • 96th Air Base Wing and Air Armament Center command chief
When was the last time you took a few minutes to do an evaluation on the difference of what is really important and what's not, or how about what's bad compared to what's really, really bad?

Today was one of those days I took a moment to evaluate my perspective on life. Today I received some bad news. My question to you is how do you put things, both good and bad, into a proper perspective?

Early in my career, I allowed a lot of things to bother me. Many of those things were actually small and very insignificant, but at the time, the issues I faced seemed very important to me. If something didn't go my way I was known to lose my temper, which never made anything better, only worse.

In November 2001 I had a chance to reflect on how precious life really is and how quickly a life can be taken away. Since that point in my life I have come to realize things can instantly change from good to bad and we may not always know why but by having a positive perspective we can get through the toughest of times. For me, it took a life altering event to put things into a totally different perspective. This is what happened.

It was a beautiful November Icelandic day when a group of friends and I decided to go to the glaciers on a four-wheel drive trip. Once we got to the main glacier, a few of the larger four-wheel drive trucks headed towards the summit and after about 30 minutes of driving around one of them called for help over the citizens' band radio. From what we heard, his truck was stuck in a crevasse and needed to be pulled out. Since we were close by, we arrived within minutes to assist.

As my friend and I walked closer to check out the situation, in an instant, everything changed! We stopped to take a picture and right after I put my camera away, I fell through the ice. As I broke through, my right elbow impacted on the ice, instantly breaking my arm at the top and dislocating it from the shoulder.

Before any of us had a chance to realize what had happened, I was 20 feet down, wedged within a small shelf with nothing below me but total darkness. At that instant, I was literally inches from dropping approximately one kilometer down to an instant death. Despite my injuries, my friends were able to rescue me and after about six hours, my arm was put back into it's socket. But the memories of that day will affect all who were on the glacier forever.

Now back to perspectives and why I am actually writing this: I just received a call notifying me that a close friend lost his year-and-a-half battle to cancer. As tough as it is to understand why things happen, I have to put things into perspective.

My friend loved life, his family, friends, the Air Force and his faith. But above everything else, he celebrated his life every day and even while he was fighting his battle, he would always say his glass was half full and continued to be a role model for all that knew him.

Although his goal was to ensure he positively impacted as many people as possible, I can't help but think of the pain his wife and six-year-old son are feeling due to his loss. It is times like these I must remind myself about how good life really is and how quickly it can be taken away.

We all suffer pain throughout our lifetime and we deal with it in different ways. Life is not easy, but the way you put things into perspective can lighten the pain and when that pain gets too much to handle, you must reach out for help through family, friends, chaplains, first sergeants or mental health professionals.

I am a believer in the saying everything happens for a reason and in the end, it will always work itself out, but there are some things that I will never understand. For instance, when I have one friend that fought for his life, why are there are so many other Airmen continue to take unnecessary risks that often jeopardize their quality of life.

Worse yet, far too many lose faith in life and attempt to end their lives through suicide and when this happens, so many others suffer.

My favorite saying is, "Life is good," and there is a reason I say it. I say it because my perspective is there is always something to be happy about and we should never allow the small things to bring us down. When you need a lift, think about those great things life has to offer and before you take risks, ensure you fully understand the implications of that risk before you act, because in every tragedy, there are many innocent family members and friends that are hurt by your actions.

As my friend used to say ... "the glass is half full!"

Happy Thanksgiving!