Today, I was kind of down in the dumps and debating about whether to post when I thought about Tech Sergeant Jones.
He was always 20 minutes early to work and had the brightest smile on his face. There were times when our gear was not working right, the officers were asking for attention, or the younger Airmen were acting out and pushing the boundaries of insubordination. He would always say that he loved the Air Force and that there was no better place to work.
He would do the job that he was assigned to do without complaint and with enthusiasm.
One day, another Sergeant made a disparaging comment about him not knowing that Jones was standing right behind him. Jones just kind of smiled and looked down, shaking his head. For an apology, the miscreant said that he was sorry because he had not seen him. I thought that added insult to injury. Instead of saying that the comment was wrong, he basically just expressed his sorrow at being caught. Instead of being sorry because he might have hurt Tech Sergeant Jones, he was just sorry.
So then, Tech Sgt Jones just smiled, but his eyes blazed.
“The duck dives into the water, but it just slides off his back. I love the water, my friend. Don’t worry,” he said.
At the time, I thought that he was trying to defuse the situation because all of us junior airmen were watching for trouble between the higher ups. The other man just smiled, too. He looked a little off a balance as if he had been expecting a violent reaction.
Later, I talked to him about the comment about ducks. He said something even more cryptic.
“Ducks have special oils in their feathers that helps to keep them able to swim and fly,” he said gently. “It’s taken me a long time to get my feathers full of oil. If I like the fish, I have to swim. That water just slides off my back.”
Now, if you allow the hurtful things that others say out of ignorance, malice or carelessness to get in your feathers, it’s just because you need the power of a little oil. Funny, huh? You need the oil for buoyancy. Tech Sergeant Jones didn’t say this, but that’s how I interpreted his comments about ducks.
He wasn’t in the Air Force for that jerk. He had joined to make a better life for his family and to support his country. He didn’t even care about fighting an enemy. He just needed some fish. That fool who had made the comment insulting Jones was just mouthing off to make himself sound important. Tech Sgt Jones reasons for being there were his oil.
They kept him coming back day after day with a friendly smile. The younger ones among us were able to come back also because we saw his example. No matter what, he was diving and flying.