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Duty...Not reward

Col. C.K. Hyde, 314th Airlift Wing commander

Col. C.K. Hyde, 314th Airlift Wing commander

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Duty. Honor. Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you want to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. -- Gen. Douglas MacArthur

I don't come from a long line of military professionals, but from a grandfather who was a sharecropper and a father who retired as an assembly line worker. My father, like other men of his era, was drafted and served two years in the Army in the early 1960s. Not long ago, I was looking through a small keepsake box that once contained the goggles he wore as a tank crew member. Inside were a number of small items that I remember arranging as a child, perhaps after I had played Soldier in the yard with friends. One of the items was a red diamond, the patch of the deactivated 5th Mechanized Infantry Division, and the other was a lapel pin with the patch and his division's motto: Duty...Not Reward.

In the weeks since, I thought about the simple motto from a division long forgotten and believe it carries a powerful message for today. We, as a military, reflect the society from whence we come. We are tempted to lose sight of our purpose and the duty, which sets us apart as members of the profession of arms from the nation which we defend.

General MacArthur said he didn't possess the eloquence to fully define Duty, and neither do I. To borrow his thoughts, it's our moral code and the ethic of the American military. It's the commitment to stay focused on our moral calling and mission while others are distracted by the turmoil of the society around us. Our calling is simple--the defense of our great republic and its principles of democracy, freedom and equality. America is a force for good in a world that continually confronts evil, which seeks to enslave and destroy. It's our calling to stand for right when others would compromise at the expense of those and the principles we defend. Our mission is simple--to fly, fight and win. Ultimately freedom will be lost unless we, the military professionals, fight to preserve it. Our duty is defined by our commitment to our calling and mission, which General MacArthur called, "fixed, determined, inviolable."

The second part of the motto, Not Reward, carries a warning, for reward continually pulls us away from the sacred calling of Duty. It's tempting in an affluent society to view the military profession as simply a job, career, or means to an education and life of future leisure compliments of ever-expanding benefits. Duty requires a separation from the motives of society and a commitment to the moral calling, mission, and ultimately, the sacrifice required to ensure freedom passes undiluted to our posterity. Too often we care more for pay tables, rank, and the "comforts" of a wealthy nation than the principles which made them possible. We must constantly guard Duty to make sure it, and not reward, holds precedence in our hearts.

Finally, Duty calls us to stand fast against the rewards promised in political debates, which the general called, "controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds." We should stand "serene, calm, aloof...as the Nation's war guardians." A military immersed in societal debate is susceptible to the corrupting influence of seeking its own reward, and in the processs, forgetting its calling and mission. We are our nation's sentry and must always guard our integrity from the forces which seek to make us an advocate for issues which supplant our commitment to Duty.

Duty...Not reward.