Patience in perspective

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- At the end of March, three first assignment instructor pilots and I journeyed to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, to attend the 44th annual Freedom Flyer Reunion.

This is a reunion of former Prisoners of War who were imprisoned by the North Vietnamese after ejecting over hostile territory during the Vietnam War.

Over the past 37 years, the 560th Flying Training Squadron has been responsible for flying 196 former POW aviators in an Air Force T-38 Talon to ensure their last flight in an Air Force aircraft was not the one resulting in their capture.

While at the reunion, we listened to story after story of selfless acts of courage in the face of unbelievably difficult circumstances. From air-to-air combat to surviving in a POW camp, we all listened intently with amazement.

Many of these men spent years living in horrible, unsanitary conditions while enduring torture. Some suffered from life threatening injuries sustained during ejection or parachute landing. Their stories inspired me to do some self-reflection on how to be a better husband, father, friend and leader.

There are numerous character traits exemplified by these former POWs. Tenacity, mental toughness, hope, optimism and loyalty are only a few. One trait which hit home for me was patience.

How often does your blood pressure rise when someone is driving five miles per hour under the speed limit in a no passing zone? What about trying to check out at a supermarket and the person in front of you pulls out a checkbook and proceeds to meticulously fill out the check?

In the fast-paced world we live in, patience can be an elusive trait.
In each of the personal stories I had the privilege to hear, one of the common traits was patience.
Each man had to endure horrible living conditions coupled with malnutrition and injuries sustained from continuous torture. The patience these men displayed under such conditions is nothing short of amazing.

I wonder if I would have had the patience to endure the same conditions. For me, the example these men set has given me a new perspective on patience. The next time your patience is tested, stop, take a deep breath and try to put your situation in perspective too.