I had the privilege of speaking before a basketball gym’s worth of Fort Hood soldiers recently. I was asked by our Suicide Prevention program manager, Sharon Sutton, to speak at the opening of their second annual Resiliency Day. I was very honored to have done so, but also delightfully surprised to get the chance to speak to this great group of young men and women.
I figured there would be a few soldiers in the crowd, but had no idea that there would be so many and that they would be sitting in the stands — with me in the middle of the basketball court giving my remarks. I told them that’s normally my husband’s gig as the commanding general for III Corps and Fort Hood! They were a very respectful and attentive audience and I am grateful for that. They also gave me a pretty healthy round of applause when I was done — that’s how polite they were.
Here are some of the highlights from my prepared speech.
I believe that it’s important to talk about what makes us resilient, how to achieve resiliency in our lives and how to ask for help when we find some of life’s challenges a bit too hard to face on our own. And, conversely, we need to know how to make sure we have a plan to assist others when we see they are struggling.
Resiliency is bouncing back from adversity. It does not mean never having to endure it, but after we’ve been knocked down — or maybe stumbled — it means getting back up. And we get up stronger for the experience, better able to handle the next road block or barrier we have to struggle through or overcome.
Resilient people are not immune to bad times, but they find within themselves — and in others they know and trust — the strength to go on. And they do so happily, for the most part. Not overjoyed or giddy, but enthusiastically and with a deep, abiding contentment that comes from their knowledge that they’ve overcome before and they will again with the help of loved ones. Or, at least one loved one.
I used to tell my daughter growing up as an Army brat, who moved 11 times from birth till she went to college, that when we got to a new location, all you need is one good friend. Emphasis on ‘good.’ Make sure you know who you can count on when the chips are down, and make sure that you are the kind of person others can count on if they need a hand.
As the saying goes; in life, no one gets out alive. But while we are here, the better we can get along with others and help each other out, the more rewarding this life can be.
Sometimes, when it’s time to help someone else or to help ourselves, we may be at a loss about where to turn. Who do we go to for help — for ourselves or someone else? When we know where to go, that’s called ‘resourcefulness.’
Try to learn where to turn for: Fellowship (time with others who are in the same boat), meaningful help and support (people who have been in the same boat but found a way out), and solid, correct information (people who have built bigger, stronger, sturdier boats than maybe the one you’re in).
Another thing I used to tell my kids — and remind them of to this day — is everyone is on his or her own journey. You can’t walk it for them or — so I don’t mix metaphors — you can’t steer their boat; you can’t really judge them because you have no idea what happened before their path crossed yours. Maybe they have overcome terrible difficulties. Maybe the fact that they are still on a path at all is a small miracle. It’s awesome that you have overcome your own obstacles, your own blocks on the road or stormy seas. Hopefully you’ve learned from those experiences, because that’s what wisdom is, in part: Learning from your mistakes or from negative experiences that were not of your own making, but just where you found yourself for reasons that escape you.
If you feel you’ve come far in your journey, be grateful! We should all try to develop an ‘attitude of gratitude.’ Studies show that people who are grateful for things in their lives are more resilient — they are happier.
I know I talk a lot about helping others out and learning ways to help each other. That’s because we are social beings and are meant to live in a community.
The more cohesion there is within a combat unit, the better functioning that unit is — but even more important, perhaps, there are less personal conflicts and emotional issues when those soldiers return from combat.
There are studies that prove this going back for a couple of wars. If you are not in a combat unit, well, we are all trying to make it through the day; sometimes just an hour or a few minutes.
The more we know we can rely on our Army family for that strength to make it through, the better off the whole community will be — and each of us will be, as individuals.
We should eat together, recreate together, worship together, laugh together, cry together and converse with one another. We need to establish ways to encourage people to do these things. Everyone’s lives will be fuller, we will feel connected, there will be human contact and a communication of ideas which leads to understanding.
A day dedicated to resiliency is that vision in action.
It reveals a community that wants to help, knows how to help, or at least knows who to ask for help for themselves or those they love; their family members, friends, anyone who seems to be hurting or lost, or maybe just needs a smile today to brighten their day.
When the adversities of life get you down, you don’t need to stay there; I know none of us wants to stay there and we all need to be willing and able to be that Good Samaritan who extends a helping hand. We need to know that we are not alone. I think this is a great way to start that conversation about how we share with others, whether it’s our time, our talents, our energy, our humor or our knowledge of the resources in our community, we need to reach out to one another so that resilient aspect of our personality can grow stronger and more flexible at the same time.
I hope you all know you are cared about and that we want you to be the best ‘you’ possible.
Events like this, and the many and varied programs the Army and Fort Hood provide, are all intended to show you that you matter, that we care.
My husband and I are so proud and grateful for all the years we have been allowed to advocate for soldiers and serve with you and your families. God bless all here, and we love you!
Lynda MacFarland is the wife of the III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general. She is a proud Army wife, mom and advocate for military families.