As an airman in the Air Force I learned very quickly about integrity. It is one of the Air Force’s core values. “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do!” It isn’t a slogan, it is an expectation. This obviously stuck with me after 22 years serving as an airman. Not because it was a message ingrained in me since day one; more so because it was a trait I value and respect in anyone I’ve ever met. Integrity is typically defined as doing or saying the right thing when no one is watching. That can also be expanded to include doing or saying what is right when your peers are watching. Peer pressure can challenge your integrity at times. It is very tempting to side with your friends, to keep you or them out of trouble. Losing your integrity is easy, earning it back it quite the opposite.
As a husband and father, integrity is a vital part of everyday life. Not because I expect it from my family, but I demand it of myself. If I promise to help with homework, or make it to a track meet; I am giving my word that I will be there to support my children. In our busy lives it can be quite easy to lose track of our promises, but our little ones don’t forget. They won’t forget that you said you would be there, and they won’t forget that you let them down. Even more importantly, they will remember if you were there for them. This will pay off later if they need to turn to you for some of life’s harder decisions. I demand integrity of myself, because I don’t want to lose the trust I have gained from my coworkers, spouse, and most importantly, my children. After all, they will be the ones driving me to a nursing home someday. I don’t want them to trick me and say we are going for ice cream. (Not a hint, kids.)
By holding ourselves accountable to what we say; we are teaching the next generation about integrity. So, the next time you have the opportunity to demonstrate the right way of doing something; do it knowing that someone is paying attention. Kids these days may seem to be distracted by their iPads and virtual reality goggles, but they are paying attention. They will see that good, and not so good, habits you have, and emulate them. If you want proof, try and excessively use the word “please” for a week. Then see how many times your child uses it. They learn from us every day. Be sure you are showing them what kind of adult you would like them to be. After all, these children will soon be filling our shoes. These children will be business leaders, teachers, and politicians. Let’s make sure they have the skills to be successful as adults.
The bottom line: integrity is about the honesty and respect we show others. It is a responsibility we have for those around us. It can define us, and be carried on by our children.
Isidro “Rey” Ornelas grew up in Moses Lake, WA. Enlisted in the Air Force in 1994, he served 22 years and recently retired. He is married with 3 kids; one at Medical Lake Middle School and two at Michael Anderson Elementary. Rey currently serves as the Military Family Advocate for Medical Lake School District and Medical Lake Community Center Saturdays Director.