Commentary by Maj. Marty Easter
21st Space Operations Squadron, Det. 3 commander
Earlier this month we celebrated the anniversary of our nation’s Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. Most Americans accept a simplified version of history that goes something like this: England mistreated the colonies; we declared our independence and won the war. This simplified version misses an essential lesson on perseverance.
Perseverance is the ability to continue striving for a goal regardless of obstacles that stand in the way. It can be difficult to appreciate everything the nation’s founders overcame to create the country we call home today. By the time the Declaration of Independence was adopted, calls for independence had been rumbling for years, armies had been formed and battles fought. It was more than five years after the declaration was signed that the Continental Army, with the help of the French, trapped the British commander, General Charles Cornwallis, at Yorktown in October 1781. Those five years included sporadic funding, limited manpower, inadequate supplies and more tactical defeats than victories. Yet during those five years people continued to believe in the cause which held the Continental Army together long enough to secure strategic victory. Clearly the Revolutionary War is an example of American perseverance.
Battlefield victories alone weren’t enough to create our nation. It would take six more years of compromise, negotiations and arguments to develop the Constitution, the foundation of our government. Almost one more year passed before enough states accepted the Constitution for it to become effective and another year before George Washington became our first president. While the obstacles during this period were different than the ones during the war, perseverance was still required to develop the government.
Some quick math shows that nearly 13 years passed from the signing of the Declaration of Independence until the establishment of an enduring government, 13 years of battles between armies, battles between political parties and everything it takes to bring 13 different states into a single union. It is easy today to think of democracy as a natural form of government. But in 1776 there was nothing like it in the world. It took people with vision and perseverance to never let the vision die that created what became the most powerful and prosperous nation in the world.
Perseverance is a trait that is just as important today as any other time in our nation’s history and it matters on big things and the small day-to-day things in life. For example, the key to personal physical fitness is regular workouts. A daily demonstration of perseverance at the gym or track will produce amazing results for your physical fitness test. Lifelong education such as professional military education, higher education or just regular reading also requires a constant effort to overcome time or distraction obstacles. Perseverance for personal improvement isn’t just limited to exercise and education. Sometimes just maintaining a good attitude and a mission focus takes daily effort.
Ultimately mission perseverance goes beyond personal improvement. Our ability to overcome obstacles to complete the mission is what measures our service to the Air Force and our country. Just like the challenges that were overcome to create our country, our challenges today are not just on the battlefield. Funding limitations, personality conflicts and personal issues must be overcome by all who wear the uniform.
Like integrity, perseverance is developed daily with the small decisions we make to get through the day. One note of caution, perseverance should not be confused with stubbornness or inflexibility. We must be sure that when we plant our feet on an issue that we are pointed in the right direction and the issue is important to whom we are as a person, as an Air Force and as a nation. Today our nation continues to face a variety of challenges. I think we can all learn from our nation’s founders and persevere to overcome the obstacles we face, whatever form they take.