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Learning the values of life makes us stronger

I Corps Command Chaplain Sergeant Major

Published: 03:01PM February 22nd, 2018
161101-N-OU129-183

U.S. Navy Photo

A U.S. service member snaps a selfie with at Don Bosco Technical School in Cambodia 2016. Schools have changed in Cambodia since Sgt. Maj. El Sar escaped with his life as a child.

Over the past month, Unit Ministry Teams across Joint Base Lewis-McChord have organized and conducted many events focusing on resiliency and values of life. These are terms we hear often in the Army, either through training, or doctrine, but I think it is very important to understand exactly what it means and why it is important.

Resiliency is defined as the mental, physical, emotional and behavioral ability to face and cope with adversity, adapt to change, recover, learn and grow from setbacks. We all know how important these skills are to Soldiers and their families.

The nature of a Soldier’s job involves constantly adapting to an ever-changing environment. However, understanding resiliency means understanding the different aspects that go into strengthening it for each individual.

The spiritual, emotional, social, physical and family health of each individual builds resiliency and form together to provide a comprehensive fitness.

These aspects fit together like different pieces of a puzzle, and very often, as one piece starts to slip, the others can crumble as well. As leaders, peers, friends and family members, it is on us to make sure that we are maintaining these areas of our lives to not only build resiliency and fitness within ourselves but for those that depend on us.

In turn, we have to be aware of how others are doing in these areas and be willing to help out when we see someone struggling. In the Army, this is crucial for readiness, leadership, team and unit success and a myriad of other facets within the Army life. However, the holistic nature of comprehensive fitness and resiliency is also important in developing skills for happiness and success after the Army.

Developing resiliency and comprehensive fitness enables each individual to not only obtain those skills and traits but to share and teach them as well, creating values of life

These past months, I Corps Command Chaplain and JBLM Unit Ministry teams executed Values of Life Physical Readiness Training, the National Prayer Breakfast and many other chaplain programs at unit level promoting Soldiers’ care, building a strong team, increasing resiliency and improving Soldiers and families’ quality of life.

Every day on and off-duty hours, weekends and holidays, we need to slow down and enjoy the meaning of life. In the morning say hello to each other and share a cup of coffee. This way, as we start our daily operations, we start with a good attitude and as a team, building trust, which is a key ingredient in the values of life.

I grew up in the jungles of Cambodia and lived through the Vietnam War, Cambodian civil war, The Khmer Rouges’ Killing Fields, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, Thai refugee camps and housing projects (Section 8). I was slapped, thrown in prison, hands tied behind my back, shot at, nearly drowned in a river, walked three days and three nights through the thick jungles of Cambodia and evaded Vietnamese troops, the Khmer Rouge, pirates, criminals, Thai security forces and avoiding more than 11 million landmines.

When my family and I arrived outside of a Cambodia-Thai refugee camp, we were robbed by Thai security forces, who took everything we had. I lost my grandparents, father, brother, uncles, aunts and hundreds of my relatives who were killed during the first 12 years of my life.

I never attended school my first 12 years of life. I had zero knowledge, skills, abilities or understanding of life. Nor did I understand the significance of pains or losses, or how to process them, since I was so used to these experiences.

These horrible experiences in my life allowed me to understand the values of life. I apply what I learned from these horrible experiences to my style of leadership, my day-to-day attitude, my day-to-day behavior and my day-to-day activities, because how I behave represents how I value my life.

As a leader, the meaning of my Soldiers’ lives, resiliency and the well-being of their families are more important than my rank and position. I believe that we all should strive to be a selfless and a servant leader.

In doing so, it means genuinely treating Soldiers with kindness, honor, respect, and most importantly, to love them like your own brother and sister 24-7. After all, we are all in the same Army and in the same uniform. We serve America’s people and we need to honor America’s sons and daughters, because America entrusts us to care for their loved ones.

I encourage Soldiers and leaders to take time to greet each other in the morning and share a cup of hot coffee, food, fun and activities within the workplace and food court in order to build a strong team, cohesion, trust, respect, dignity and esprit de corps. Because this is how we truly measure the true meaning and values of life.

We must care and love one another in all we do. This is because we all depend on each other to serve our nation. Everyone contributes to the team and mission.