JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
Throughout my military career, I have had the honor of meeting several military members' extended family. Many times, these family members would arrive at base due to hospitalizations or other hardships. One thing that continues to catch me by surprise is how shocked the families are at the level of care within our units.
The non-military family members often say, "I can't believe how well the military takes care of each other," or "you'd never see this kind of outreach anywhere else." The public sees us accomplish our mission, but we astound them with our ability as a military community to rally behind those in need.
Prior-military members often comment on how they miss the camaraderie and environment. Hopefully we do not take bonds like these for granted as we think, "of course my co-workers won't let my grass get too long while I'm deployed," or "I'm sure I'll find someone to pick up the mail to ward off would-be burglars."
We do these tasks for each other, and more, often for 6 months or longer, for absolutely no additional compensation. The extent of our care is not quantified or limited to the people on our left and right every day. In areas where disaster strikes across the nation, our teams are seen pitching in, volunteers, without mobilization or orders, helping strangers they do not know and probably will never see again.
Why is it that we do these things? I was watching a TED Talk by Simon Sinek, a popular leadership and management author, when it all came together for me. His research led to a common theme among military members and centered on the statement, "they would've done the same for me."
Sinek goes on to note that in groups where people feel safe and cared for, they are willing to take risks and do things for each other they normally would not. This comes from leaders at all levels, including informal leaders, taking the initiative and reaching out. Skip over "what's in it for me" and getting straight to "do unto others."
Although our ways surprise people, they are not new customs within military circles.
"There's no limit to the good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit," said former Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall.
"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," is a well-known encouragement from former President Kennedy.
If we keep this tradition alive - serving and caring for each other ahead of personal gain - we can continue to be a model for society. In today's self-centered culture of instant gratification, we must band together to protect the traditions of caring and service that those before us started. We cannot stop asking ourselves, "how can I serve others?"
We must stand fast in our values to ensure generations to come will continue to see the military community as an example for what our society should be.