We all know – ‘not all people are alike’. Some possess positive personalities and others are negative – it is a glass half-full scenario. Most of us have good days, while others suffer spots of depression, loss of confidence, and fear of our own success. The human spirit is a tricky thing and it is hard to understand; let alone manage.
An indomitable spirit is one that cannot be subdued or overcome, as in persons, will, or courage; that are seemingly unconquerable: an indomitable warrior. It is shown when a courageous person and his principles are pitted against overwhelming odds.
We all need a spirit of victory, a spirit that will carry us to our rightful place under the sun, a spirit which can recognize that we, as inheritors of a proud civilization, are entitled to our rightful place on this planet. If that indomitable spirit were to arise, then nothing can hold us from achieving our rightful destiny.
In July, it was my privilege to attend AirVenture 2019 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where I volunteered for about 20 hours with the CAF Red Tails Rise Above Traveling Exhibit. This wonderful exhibit pays homage to the famed Tuskegee Airmen. We celebrate these brave warriors. We honour, respect, and thank them for their service.
This year, I pondered exactly what makes these pilots and crew so unique? Why are they so different compared to the rest of us? Why are they different from me?
After five years volunteering with this important organization, I have met many of the surviving Tuskegee members and without exception they are brilliant examples of indomitable spirits. These never-say-die, dauntless, and courageous people are the very best of us.
If you live your life well, a smart person seeks out powerful, uplifting people in life to surround yourself, to inspire you, and help to make you a better person. These airmen exemplify this ideal. They are irrepressible and tenacious in all that they do. Even decades after the end of their military service, these are the very best folks to show you how to rise above adversity to meet their high-level persona. It is a thrill to be around them. Yes, I know, I sound like a stalker, groupie, or maybe even a less threatening fanboy of these Airmen, but it makes me feel good to be around them. It is as simple as that, no more, no less. They inspire me to be better than I am.
This year, we had the pleasure of two Airmen signing autographs, meeting and greeting visitors, and charming children at the CAF Red Tails Rise Above Traveling Exhibit. They were Col. Charles McGee and Lt. Col. George Hardy. We greatly missed the presence of Lt. Col. (Dr.) Harold Brown who was unable to join us this year. As a surprise, on the Thursday morning of the show, Lt. Col. Harry Stewart, Jr. and Lt. Col. James Harvey dropped by to say, “hello”. So, for about one hour, we had four of the original Airmen at the exhibit. For those who were there, including me, it was truly an opportunity of a lifetime.
So, what makes these gentlemen so indomitable? Why are they the best of us?
My conclusion is that they live by the core values for which the Red Tails are known. They exemplify the Six Guiding Principles that represent the character of all Tuskegee personnel. The Tuskegee name also applies to the navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks, and other support personnel, not just the pilots. Without exception, we would be wise to emulate them in our lives each day. The Tuskegee guiding principles are:
Spending a few days talking with them in between the onslaught of visitors. I observed that they all possess a strong sense of humor. They make me laugh, and that is a powerful attraction for me to decide who to be friends within my life.
At their advanced ages, all in their 90s, they are not ruffled by much as they learned to go with the flow years ago. This relaxed attitude is enticing. Most have family members keeping a careful eye on them, acting as gatekeepers, and ensuring their general well-being, so they are not overwhelmed at an event with over 642,000 visitors in 2019. This family connection is important for a quality life too.
They are all gracious and respectful of others. They listen to you. They shake your hand decisively and acknowledge your presence. They look you in the eye and you feel special. They make you feel important to them. How great is that?
They are all kind. You can see it in the way they interact with children. Often the kids are brought over by their parents to meet the Airmen. So, upon their approach the children are closed, cautious, and hesitant. But, after a few minutes with the Airmen, these same kids are smiling, talking, interacting, and having fun. That says a lot.
These Airmen are all smart and educated. They took advantage of opportunities to learn and advance themselves in life. Many went back to school later in life to catch up on education missed during the war years while they were off defending America’s freedom.
But, I suppose, the most impressive quality is their indomitable spirit. They are ready to go, never quit, and expect to win.
In our world, there are tens of thousands of people whose strengths are limitless. We all know one.
They walk among us everyday. They achieve great things. They are focused and they never show weakness. They motivate and inspire us.
We wonder exactly how do they do this? Without rest, without complaints, and without a second thought they push the boundaries on what we think is impossible.
Each of these powerful individuals are successful in a completely unique way. Of course, not all success revolves around money, fame, and power, it is more often possessing an intangible authority.
So, is it the core attributes which guide their characteristics? I would like to think “yes”. Consequently, I will work to change my life and model it after these same values. While I can never truly walk in their shoes nor even comprehend the personal journeys that their lives have taken them along, I can try to be more like them, and to live a life – well lived. To be brave, to be happy, and to be like a Tuskegee Airmen.
Photos by Ken Mist. All rights and copyrights reserved by the photographer.
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies.
He is a Senior Executive with IBM Canada’s Office of the CTO, Global Services. Over the past 14 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He serves as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now Ontario Tech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.