Lessons In Respect

Many sunsets ago when I was in the Army National Guard we were in the field doing training with our sergeant and Squad leader, who was an older gentleman. Of course, I was  20 something so he just seemed old 😊 .  Anyway, we were working on map training and navigation by compass for the day.

We set up on a hill to identify landmarks to shoot back azimuths so we could figure out where we are, and I noticed our Sergeant had the map upside down.  Now keep in mind I had been under this guy for a while and he always seemed a little slow to me.  Always showing up looking like he just rolled out of his duffle bag and not quite all there… I thought, “great… a lifer-loser.

I watched him try and figure out where we were, I thought, “OMG, really this old Geezer cannot even read a map!”  So I proudly said, “Sergeant the map is upside down.”  He looked up at me embarrassed and turned the map over and we all went to work on our training. For two weeks I told that story and rolled my eyes and acted like I was the smartest guy in the room. Poking fun at my sergeant over every beer I drank.

In December, it came time for our holiday party and we all dressed in our dress uniforms with our spouses and headed to the Armory.

Upon arriving at the armory, we sat with our team.  The Sergeant was not there yet and I thought, “Well I wonder what he will look like today.” I saw my sergeant enter the room in his dress uniform and I was stunned!! There he was, his uniform pressed and ready. Along his chest was a plethora of ribbons, medals on top of medals.  As he walked proudly towards our table I started to recognize the medals and patches on his uniform. I don’t remember them all but here are the ones I do, Purpleheart, Silver star, Airborne, Ranger, expert marksman and god knows what else.

I came to attention immediately and greeted my sergeant with a handshake and a level of respect he had never seen from me I am sure!  I must have looked at him the way a boy looks at his hero.

Throughout the evening under protest, I prodded the story out of him.  How did he get the silver star and purple heart? He was serving as an airborne ranger in Vietnam and they were ambushed by the enemy, he was an RTO operator (radio guy) and the radio was knocked out.  He was hit several times, one time in the helmet resulting in a head injury and a metal plate in his head.   He rescued several of his guys and was able to hold off the enemy until reinforcements arrived  ….. I must have just looked stunned…. He admitted It was the head injury that had caused him to be slow minded.

That was the day that I learned that respect is given not earned, it was also the day I learned that respect can be re-given. You have no clue who you may or may not be, dealing with, talking too or even married too.  Without, respect there is nothing.  Hell, there are even some people I dislike but respect.   You see, what respect does is provide a benefit of the doubt.   So had I had respect for my Sergeant I would have given him the benefit of doubt that there must be something wrong.

I would not have talked poorly of him for weeks like it was some kind of joke.  If I would have respected him, I would have helped him instead of embarrassing him.

Once respect is lost then there is nothing, as there is nothing to build upon. The relationship is doomed to failure. Now I am not talking about never making a mistake or talking about putting an infinite end on the word RESPECT.  Mark my words everyone will make a mistake, they will try and hide it, then they will apologize and someone will pull the, “you’ve lost my respect card.” Well, there was a reason they probably hid it from you to start with, possibly because there was not the level of respect that would allow that person to be honest with you, to come to you for help.  To go to someone they know will respect them.

Respect re-given, yes, my Sergeant was probably fully aware of my lack of respect for him, yet he never disrespected me, nor did he count me out.  With that, he allowed me to Re-give my respect even deeper and more honorable than ever.   I still to this day remember my lesson and the level of respect he gave me when I needed it most when I was at my worst.

That resulted in my respect for him carrying on long after he is now gone.   So to you SGT… thank you!

My advice to you is while you may not love, like or even know a person, Respect should be initial and evident.  Can it be lost? Absolutely, but can it be regained, yes stronger than ever.

So heed this warning in your family, marriage, job or any relationship- once respect is lost, all is lost.  Without respect for the other person’s beliefs, political position, ethnicity,  gender or work habits there can be no discussion, there can be no solution.  There can be no understanding.  There can be no future. Now don’t misconstrue my intent,  this doesn’t mean don’t speak up when something is wrong, it doesn’t mean you cannot have lively discussion or debate or that you simply need to bend your beliefs to someone else’s, but it does mean you have to do all that respectfully.

In closing, I think that what is wrong with today is that some people simply don’t respect themselves.  They look at themselves in the mirror and do not respect the person looking back at them.  Why?  Is it social media? Is it the constant unrelenting attacks on your life, your income, your car, your family, your education telling you “it’s not good enough”?  To respect anyone else you must first respect yourself.  So what are you doing to cause you to not respect yourself?

Solve that.  Then always, always give respect first which provides for benefit of the doubt.  You never know what is or has been on someone’s plate.  Lastly always be respectful even in times of stress, I think you will find that you will receive the same thing back and  if you don’t, then there is nothing you can do except  respectfully depart 😊