RAF MILDENHALL, SFK, UNITED KINGDOM
RAF MILDENHALL, United Kingdom - Can a men's size 14 foot fit in a female size 10 high heel shoe? For years I've tried and my feet are getting sore. Not from being too big. Oh no, my feet aren't big enough to fill these shoes.
While some people try to emulate celebrities, politicians or athletes, I strive to be like my mother and fill her great shoes. Yoland Sue Anthony served in the United States Air Force for more than 20 years and is the main reason I joined.
Although 95 percent of her Air Force career was before I was born, I enjoyed the parts I experienced. Through her guidance and example, she molded me into an airman before I officially became one.
From her shadow I watched her exude the Air Force Core Values along with strength, grace and resilience over the years.
As a child, I ran back and forth through the halls of our home never noticing the walls or all her awards adorning them.
One day, I received an award for perfect attendance. To me it was insignificant because I just showed up; but I could tell my mother was proud. Taking my award, my mother placed it on the wall with my siblings' as she told me it would be "the first of many." After she left, I stared at the wall in awe of the sea of accomplishments my siblings had earned.
On the walk back to my room I entered another hallway. This time, instead of just blindly charging through, I actually stopped and looked around. As I gazed up at the constellation of plaques, certificates, awards and degrees, I suddenly realized that my mom not only had her own wall, but she had an entire hallway of accomplishments.
Upon closer investigation, I noticed the majority of her accomplishments had the words "United States Air Force" written in an elegant, bold script. From that day forward I knew my mom had done great things and I wanted to be like her.
My mother grew up on the island of St. Vincent with nine siblings. At the age of 19, she traded the quiet island life for the chaotic streets of New York City with the aspiration of going to college. To fund her dream, she started working at a local factory assembling pens. The job paid poorly, and she knew she needed a career change.
One day, she visited her local recruiting office to join the military. The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps recruiters were all out of their office but by fate she went to the Air Force recruiter's office and enlisted.
She started off in administration and eventually landed an assignment at the University of California Berkley working with Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets. It was at this assignment she realized she could further her career in the Air Force and commissioned.
Though I don't know much about what she did in the military, I do know that during her time in service she accomplished great things. From leading various units including the 46th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to helping the Air Force's first African-American female pilot pass her flight physical.
Even though my mother hung up the uniform, she continued to embrace the Air Force Core Values. When she retired, she had to figure out how to raise three children on a limited income. It was during these tough times when I first noticed what Service Before Self meant. She exemplified this core value and she raised us by constantly putting our needs above her own.
One of the things my mother taught me was resiliency. Whether it was working in a job she hated at an insurance company or finding a way to make ends meet, she always did this with grace, determination and resolve.
In 1993, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, I didn't really understand what it meant or how serious it was; I just knew my mom was sick. I could tell that something was different but she always put on a smile or a strong face no matter what.
My mother has always been dedicated to things she felt were worthy causes. This is just another example of how she helped mold me into the man I am today. After she won her battle with cancer, she continued her selfless service to others by volunteering at the North American Family Institute, an organization for troubled teens. After a decade of hard work and excellence, my mother became the regional manager for NAFI and earned the nickname "The Velvet Hammer" from her coworkers for her gentle yet firm leadership style.
By this time, I was in my teens with a scholarship to play basketball at a local junior college. My mother saw an opportunity for me to mentor some troubled boys in the program. I wasn't so sure about her request at the time. The same woman who didn't want me to play football was now asking me to go into a confined space with convicted felons.
I expressed my concerns with my mother, but she reassured me everything would be OK. She told me that I could have a positive influence on several young men's lives and even if I only encouraged one person, it would all be worth it. Reluctantly I agreed, and the clock to my mentoring session began ticking much faster than I wanted.
To say I was nervous about this new undertaking would be putting it mildly. However, once in the room I realized they were all kids just like me. The only difference was they made a mistake. I spoke with them for a while then we went outside and played basketball. At the end of the day, I felt great because I knew for a fact I made a difference and that was one of the most rewarding lessons my mother has ever given me.
Thinking back on my basketball career, I remember how I always use to invite my father to games. During warm-ups I would scan the crowd and look for him and sadly every time, even in his hometown, he wouldn't show. I didn't realize it until half way through my first college season that my mother had attended every game that I played. Even if the game was eight hours away, she was always there to support me. She lives the wingman concept.
Integrity was a fun lesson to learn. I'll never forget the way she would call my name when I was in trouble. She would draw out my name with each syllable going up like a musical scale and each time, sending chills coursing through my body. Despite this, I always thought I couldn't hide any wrong doings from my mom. She always told me "your ways will always find you out," and sure enough they always did. To this day, that saying, along with Integrity First rings in my head.
There is so much that I can attribute to my mother. In my eyes, she's more powerful than the president, smarter than Albert Einstein and tougher than Chuck Liddell, all while being as gentle as Mother Teresa.
As a senior airman in the U.S. Air Force, I look back with pride knowing that this was always meant to be a part of my life. From the beginning of my childhood until the moment I raised my right hand and swore the Oath of Enlistment, my mother has silently guided me here. I hope that I can give back to those I serve with and to my own children the inspiration she has always bestowed upon me. As far as the shoes go, I know I still have a long way to go to fill my mother's shoes, but I know that I am the man I am today because of the strong woman who raised me, guided me and believed in me. Thank you, mom.
||RAF MILDENHALL, SFK, GB
||BAKER, FL, US
||CRESTVIEW, FL, US
||SILVER SPRING, MD, US
||ST. VINCENT, VC
This work, Mother's influence shapes son's military career, by SSgt Micaiah Anthony, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.