One chance … to do the right thing

Executing Leadership in the moment

So, when I was the 33rd Maintenance Group Commander, life was lonely. I commanded about 1,100 troops who all lived in a small community in Florida. Because of the small community and its perceived scrutiny, I worked hard to avoid compromising situations. I tried to be positive and upbeat as much as possible, and tried, for example, to avoid getting frustrated or upset while driving, and tried to reflect love and kindness in personal interactions; it was a great exercise in character. Ultimately, I was proud of my command., to this day, one thing happened which brings me shame. Our group sponsored a golf tournament. It was great fun. After the tourney, we had a raffle, which I made sure to purchase plenty of tickets for the charitable benefit. Then the unthinkable happened. We raffled off the grand prize, a Taylor Made brand new R-7 driver ($350). They called my name. WOW! I WON! I never win anything. I got excited, a new driver…AWESOME!

Then I accepted the driver and sat down. As my exhilaration subsided, I realized, I didn’t need a new driver. I was the least needy person in this room. I wanted to re-raffle the driver; but it was over. I was embarrassed. I was disappointed. I realized, that I had lost an opportunity to do the right thing. One moment, to offer it for re-raffle, or give it to the youngest Airmen in the room, or do anything but hoop and holler about winning. After a few minutes, I gave the driver to a young Airmen indiscreetly, but my moment was gone.

So why this post at this time – 8 years later?

An Air Force Academy graduate and retiree, Darryl Glenn, who is running for Senate in Colorado, lost his moment to do the right thing. His ratings are rapidly falling in the polls.

The Denver Post interviewed him and asked him if he had ever been arrested. He said no. He noted he was a military man, and had lived his life with honor and integrity.   Hey Darryl, me too! We joined and retired within one year of each other.

But, the Denver Post showed him an arrest citation from when he was 17. Again, he denied it. He said it must have been another Darryl Glenn.

I can paint or imagine a picture of what really happened, at least it was what really happened to me.

When each of us were 17, we were on track to become officers in the Air Force. The recruiters made it clear that any police interactions might eliminate our possibility of scholarship (for me) or nomination (for him).

Then, I was arrested (well, kind-of). I was cited for being out after curfew, playing video games at a gas station with my buddy after seeing Rocky-Horror Picture Show. (It was two o-clock (or-so) and the policeman interrupted my high-scoring “JOUST” game.) It was VISCERAL and painful, I remember it like it was yesterday. I saw my future lost. I pleaded to the judge, and he threw it out.  Phew…

But then came my interview and the dreaded question… Have you ever been arrested? My response … Ahhhhhh (stalling while deciding what to say), “yes”, I was arrested for a curfew violation. After he smiled, laughed, and made a few notations, my life went on. I received my scholarship, lived my dream, and could cite an amazing career.

However, at nearly the same time in Colorado Springs, my guess is during Darryl’s interview, he said “NO” (Wasn’t this true, his father had thrown out the charge against him).   If he told the actual truth, he might loose his appointment.   Or maybe he already had an appointment, and didn’t want to let his leadership know.  But, I know every three/five years he had to fill out clearance paperwork which always asked if he had been arrested…

My guess is had to protect this “story” his whole life. He thought saying he hit is father after his father threatened his mother might have eliminated him from Service. He probably accepted this belief and deeply hid this truth and created a better story.    Sadly, this lie got him into an institution whose motto is “I will NOT lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate anyone who does.”

Then 30 years later, the Denver Post recreated that original interview or one of many security clearance interviews. “Have you ever been arrested?”  …. “NO” it must have been someone else.   Too bad they showed him his signature.   A week later, Darryl recanted his story, said he had “forgot”.   (Really?!)

That moment,   that moment we could have loved Darryl in his authenticity, loved him for standing up for his mom, relished him as a man of ideals and integrity, a man who could be a great Statesman.

A man who stands up for the weak, disenfranchised, and needy.

But no Darryl, that moment is gone and so is yours.