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It is always about the work. In the latter years of your life, your happiness and your self-esteem will be determined by the mountains you surmounted, the valleys you climbed out of, and the life and/or career that you forged for yourself.

Maya Angelou

During the war years, many young men and women stepped forward to answer the call to serve their country.  America was under attack and the need to defend itself was long overdue.  It took Pearl Harbor as the catalyst to suddenly engage the country’s unyielding resolve to stand up for justice and defend its way of living.

It was absolutely unacceptable to allow the tyrannical rein of mad individuals to adversely influence society and alter the way of life for free men and women, the United States had come too far to let it all slip away without a fight.  The twisted ideals of a few world leaders were warping the fabric of society and forced the American culture off course.  As with all wars, the youth stepped up to defend their homes, their families, their loved ones, and the cherished American ideals and beliefs.

Not all who joined the ranks achieved the same levels of success.  Today we honour our Tuskegee Airmen and we revere our Women Air Service Pilots.  Too often we forget the majority who performed roles that were every bit as important as the flyers whose heroic deeds we laud.  The nurses, mechanics, the planners, the grunts, and the GI Joe’s, they all contributed equally, and in their own ways.  No, they were not dive-bombing a warship, or engaging in gut wrenching air-to-air combat, but those heroics could never have happened at all, if the engines were not tuned, the airplanes fueled, and the armaments made ready, checked, and then double-checked, by the faithful, loyal and trustworthy ground crews.  These same pilots had to eat and sleep and many other Tuskegee Airmen supported them with healthy food and clean clothes.  If they were hurt, then more Airmen stepped up to nurse them back to health and dress wounds.

Over two thousand young men stepped up with a dream to pilot fighter and heavy airplanes as Tuskegee Airmen, but half of them never made the cut, were released, or failed to succeed and joined other parts of the war efforts.  Does this make their desire and commitment to serve any less then those that flew those daring missions? 

In my eyes, no it does not.

It takes blind courage to step up.  It demands an unbending bravery to even try.  You must push yourself to your personal limits, and beyond.  You must learn it all, learn it very fast, and even in the beginning when it all seems to be unlearnable you must persevere and push yourself forward.  Physically, you must endure even more untenable hardships.  No, flying is not for everyone. 

We see it even today with the high wash-out rates at local flight schools.  Even for me, earning my pilot’s licence was one of the most challenging things that I have ever done.  It was more difficult than earning a graduate degree, and by many times over.  When you are young, you have no fear.  You think of yourself as invincible.  But, as you age, the risks seem to outweigh the gains.  Thank goodness we had so many bright young people ready to step up to answer the call, as I fear that the wiser, older folks may never have earned the same outcomes that our youthful warriors achieved.

So, what happens to those who washed out?  Did they continue to fail?  Did they lose their way after this misstep?  No, they refocused and searched for new ways to serve.  After the war years, these wash-outs discovered roles and responsibilities to re-enter the post-war society and contribute in a meaningful way.  They were already high achievers just to get into the Tuskegee program, so you do not lose your drive because of just one failure. 

The measure of a great person is not that they failed, it is how they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, readied themselves again, and start over.  It is this unsinkable spirit that makes America great.  The call to serve was no less for those who failed to fly; they helped to win the war in other ways.  They simply found out where they fit better and started anew. 

————————–MJM ————————–

About the Author:

Michael Martin is the Vice President of Technology with Metercor Inc., a Smart Meter, IoT, and Smart City systems integrator based in Canada. He has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies. He is a business and technology consultant. He was senior executive consultant for 15 years with IBM, where 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 is 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 has served 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 OntarioTech 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 three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 20 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.