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Getting through the tough times

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Vicki Gamble
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing command chief
There was a recent suicide in Air Mobility Command. There have been many more in the Air Force since January. This reality leaves many in the Air Force, including me, to wonder why. Are we doing enough as co-workers, supervisors and friends? Are our Airmen given enough training and support to cope with life when things don't go their way?

I've always thought mamas were pretty smart people, especially mine. When my sister and I were growing up we faced lots of adversity in our lives. As a matter of fact, I was always jealous of my friends that had boxes of Barbie dolls, while I only had one. The one I did own was a hand-me-down and was missing most of her "long luxurious hair" because the previous owner had so frivolously chopped it off.

Our social situation or lack thereof often bothered my sister and me. We would lie in bed at night and discuss our very forlorn situation. However, we never spoke of such things around my mama. Mama never tolerated feeling sorry for ourselves. Whenever she caught wind of our despair, my mama would tell us that, "happiness is between your ears." What she meant by that statement was my happiness was controlled by my thoughts. I didn't realize it at the time, but this mantra would help me overcome several hurdles throughout my life.

Many years later, after being in the Air Force for a couple of decades, I made a great friend who was a chief master sergeant and an Air Force combat controller. While talking with him about his Airmen's training I tried to wrap my mind around how someone could put their bodies and brains through such pain and not only survive- but thrive. He said, "Vicki, getting through anything tough on the mind or the body just requires you to get through the moment. The moment only last a little while, but quitting last forever."

The thoughts he shared with me reminded me of my mama. Their messages were very similar. Every day is not unicorns and rainbows. Sometimes, life is not fair. Sometimes, feelings can overwhelm you. Sometimes, it seems that no one can possibly understand the terrible events that have happened to you. However, my mama and I would disagree with those thought patterns. You are not alone. Your Air Force family cares about you. You just need to get through the moment. Getting through the moment could mean reaching out for help with a mental health professional, talking to a friend, chaplain or supervisor and reinforcing your coping skills early and often.

Even though your problems seem overwhelming and insurmountable, they are not. Put your problems in perspective. Most are not life threatening and you shouldn't allow them to threaten your happiness and life. You are important to your family, coworkers and the defense of this great country.

Nowadays, I own a couple hundred Barbie dolls complete with houses, cars, pools and even horses. It's sort of childish, but it is my personal material reminder that if I can "just get through the moment," I can accomplish anything.