A prayer for year-long inspiration

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. John W. Shipman
  • Chaplain, 509th Bomb Wing Chapel
“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again,” quoted William Penn.

Every Airmen is a story of service and sacrifice based on integrity, service before self and excellence. You are defined by your past struggles, your current situation and your vision for the future.

Where you started this journey, those who helped you or hurt you on the journey are sources of inspiration. The clearest definition of inspiration is “That which helps you rise up in the morning and is a guide for your dreams in the future.”

I joined the Air Force in 1982. I was farming with my father in Wisconsin after graduating from high school. The work was very difficult with little pay. My father served twenty years in the military before moving to the farm and three of my brothers were serving in the Air Force at that time so I thought that this may be a better way of life. I wanted a college education and more opportunities than a life on the farm would provide.

I served for nine and a half years as a proud enlisted service member starting out as an honor graduate from airman basic. I was selected for senior airman below the zone, which helped me promote to staff sergeant in four years. Within six years I was able to finish my degree in Business Management, which in turn led me to being nominated as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan. This gave me the opportunity to be chosen for Officer Training School within eight years.

In addition, I was very active in the church. While serving in a variety of leadership roles throughout my life, I felt the call to serve as a pastor. So I left the Air Force in 1991 to attend seminary.

During my time outside of the Air Force I served as a chaplain at the Ohio State University Hospital and two congregations in Michigan. In each service opportunity or ministry setting I celebrated the time and people with whom I served. With each success, there were many times of struggle, hardship, long hours and yet, my journey was, and continues to be inspired by leadership, my family, the mission and my friends.

My proudest accomplishment in my military career happened at Lajes Field, Azores. I was asked to lead a delegation of U.S. and Portuguese Officers and NCOs to help a school near the base.

The school was in need of repairs, updated materials, and a way to keep the cows off the property. My team met with the school leadership, who presented a drafted plan to fix up the school property, install a fence to keep the cows out, as well as provide computers, sporting equipment and pencils and paper.

After giving my analysis of how best to help, the principal thanked me. He held up a small box of milk and said in his broken English, “The children in our school receive this box of milk during the day. This is all the nourishment they receive. The things that you said you could provide are wonderful but the best thing you can provide is food.”

I told him, “We will accomplish all the things stated and that the chapel at Lajes Field would provide the food for every student each day.”

The team visited the school each week with food. We had a special work day to fix the school and the playground equipment. The American school even came out and presented a basketball hoop and soccer balls and we hosted a pot luck meal event where the American and Portuguese were able to come together in community.

The vision, pride, care, and effort are still a point of celebration and inspiration to what I can accomplish in my life.

This article was written to inspire you to look at your own life and recognize your success, that there are good times, there will be times of struggle and your life matters.

William Penn was spot on when he stated his expectations so he could pay it forward. Your value to the world is stated almost every day by leadership, your family and your friends … that you and your efforts matter for global security and for establishing, maintaining and sustaining our Air Force community.

It is my hope that you will hear this vision, understand, embrace and apply it. Each one of you is a story of service and sacrifice based on integrity, service before self and excellence.

Today, my prayer is for inspiration, and inspired actions in 2017.