The ole’ man and his pickup truck

  • Published
  • By CMSgt Atticus C. Smith
  • Command Chief, 388th Fighter Wing
Before joining the Air Force I worked at Palmer's Gas Station. I pumped gas and did minor car repairs. Every Friday night, an ole' pickup truck would come in for a fill up. The driver, an ole' man, fit the looks of the truck...both of them were a bit broken, beaten, and scarred; however, they diligently kept on moving. The ole' man never really said much unless spoken to so I'd ask him how his week went.

There was no doubt in my mind that both the driver and the pickup truck knew what a hard day's work entailed. He'd give me a quick recap of all the things he accomplished, and it always seemed that he was proud of what he did. Sometimes he mentioned that he fell short at some things or wasn't happy about how certain things fared but his attitude was always positive; comments such as: "I'll be sure to fix that next week" or "No sense to let that get me down."

The ole' man and the ole' pickup truck were quite a team, I never saw one without the other. They always kept moving despite their outward appearance. On Friday October 6, 1989, the ole' man and his pickup truck rolled in for a fill up. I knew this would be the last time I'd see them because in six days I was leaving for basic training. After my standard questions, I asked a question that had been on my mind for quite awhile. "Hey mister, how do you and your pickup truck keep doin' it...week after week after week, you just keep on goin."

The ole' man looked at me and said; "Well son...I guess we'd rather wear out than rust out." I grinned and acted like I knew what he meant.

The following Friday, my life started a new path. It was my first day of basic training. Interestingly, as each Friday passed I thought about the ole' man. I never told him I was leaving, I'm not sure why and part of me regrets that I didn't. Throughout my career, some of my experiences have reminded me of his words and I've learned the message he sent that day.

The ole' man wasn't always happy with what life threw at him. He had his share of challenges and obstacles but he never stopped moving. He could have easily given up. He could have easily placed blame on others. He could have easily stopped trying. He could have easily stopped caring. But he didn't, he'd rather wear out than rust out.

For varying reasons, I've seen many Airmen, to include myself, get frustrated with the Air Force. Whether it's a new uniform, a policy change, a rating on a performance report, having to work a weekend or a holiday, another deployment...gosh the list can go on and on. Frustrations and challenges are a fact of life but all too often some Airmen let it get the best of them and they stop moving.

Many of us have served with Airmen who count down the months or years to retirement or a PCS; the Airmen who are "R.O.A.D." (retired on active duty), Airmen who do the absolute minimum day in and day out, as if they're just punching a time clock. We've served with Airmen who love to nitpick all the things that are "wrong" with the Air Force; never once highlighting all the things that are right with the Air Force. I've concluded that these Airmen have let themselves rust out. It'd be nice to figure out what would serve as a can of WD-40 to either protect them from rusting out or fixing their rust spots but I believe it must start with them.

The desire to keep moving, to find the reason and necessary strength to do something, is based on what's in your heart and mind. Sure we'd all love to have that life coach to keep us motivated and focused but there comes a time when you and you alone, need to provide your own motivation. It's been said that our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but by how we react to what happens; not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. Your attitude is your WD-40, use as much as you need; don't rust out, wear out!

Bring credit and honor to the United States Air Force and take care of each other in all your actions.