What will your legacy be?


Major Adamson, 50th SW Chaplain

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A couple of weeks ago, we posed a question on the Deep Space chalkboard outside our office: “What was the hardest thing you ever went through?” We received a number of responses, some lighthearted like, “Stepping on a Lego” and some serious like, “Watching my grandmother die.”

As a chaplain, I have the sacred duty to walk with people during these difficult times. I have performed dozens of funerals and memorial services for people of all ages, the youngest just a few weeks old to the oldest in her 90s.

A couple of years ago, I did a funeral for an 87 year old World War II veteran.

He started out in the Army Air Corps as a bombardier on a B-17, flew in the European theater and later joined the Air Force where he retired as a senior master sgt. As I talked with his wife of over 60 years, she continued to tell me what a great man, friend and husband he was. I got to hear a few stories which validated that confession, and I thought, “This man left quite a legacy.”

Although all funerals are tough, when a person leaves a good legacy, the sadness of the occasion is tempered by the joy they brought which continues to reverberate through time. During the service, I get to honor that person and share nuggets from a life well lived.

Not often do we think about our legacy. We are busy living life, working, playing, surviving, thriving. Every once in a while, the opportunity to reflect comes along.

Last week during the Air Force’s 71st birthday celebration, Col. Jacob Middleton, vice commander of the 50th Space Wing, shared about Airmen pioneers who set us up for success, and he challenged us to do the same for those who will follow us. Legacy.

Every time I do a funeral, I think about such things. If we could peer into the future to our own funeral, what might some chaplain someday be saying about us and the legacy we left behind?

Is it a good one? There would be at least one good thing to say: “They served their country.” Joining the military or civilian service is the beginning of a great legacy. But it is just the beginning. What else might they say? He was a good husband? She was an awesome supervisor? A fantastic mom? Encouraging roommate? Inspiring coach? Loyal friend? Great Airman? What stories might they share?

Young or old, as long as we breathe, we have the opportunity to shape that legacy for good. That is an amazing opportunity. Seize it with passion, perseverance and fun, knowing that it makes a difference for those who follow.

Former President George Washington, after serving two terms, said in his farewell address, “I carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view my faults with indulgence; and that after 45 years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.”

He acknowledged his shortcomings, but he also admitted his zeal and service for the country which left quite a legacy.

For us, today is the time to live life well. To serve with zeal.

What will our legacy look like?