True grit

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- I'm a big movie buff and I grew up watching movies such as True Grit, McClintock, The Quiet Man and The Green Berets with my father, so needless to say I'm a big John Wayne fan. Though he won an Oscar for his role in True Grit, it's not the storyline of that movie that's always intrigued me, but more so that movie's title and how I've always thought of John Wayne synonymous with the word "grit."

Somehow "grit" seemed to embody his bigger than life persona, unconquerable spirit, inner confidence, focus and purpose--basically the same character traits he portrayed in all of his movies. To me it was something tangible I could see and readily recognize in him every time. It was those same qualities that I also saw in Tom Hanks in his role in the movie Saving Private Ryan.

As defined by Webster's Dictionary, grit has two primary meanings: "a hard, sharp granule," and also "firmness of mind or spirit; unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger." What a great, interesting word. It's a word that psychologists have tried to put their hands around for years.

As recently as 2007, a study conducted by a Dr. Angela Duckworth from the University of Pennsylvania attempted to quantify the importance and existence of this otherwise noncognitive trait relative to individual's success. For the purposes of this research, "grit" was defined as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals." Based on the study of prominent figures (past and current) from across not only our nation but also internationally, it was determined that "perseverance was at least as crucial as personal intelligence" on a person's success. In other words, hard-work, sacrifice and personal conviction --"true grit" is real and has significant impact on ultimate success or failure.

Based on the above definitions and research, to me, true grit is what sets our nation and our military apart from all others. It's digging down deep and harnessing our internal drives and motivations to pursue and achieve our goals and in so doing protect the ideals and principles of our great nation.

On our most recent observance of Veterans Day, I looked out among the hundreds of American patriots lining the streets of San Angelo both presently in uniform and those long since retired from active service and I saw true grit in their spirit. When our collective Goodfellow Air Force Base Black Rope Drill Team proudly and perfectly reenacted the raising of the colors on Iwo Jima during their performance at the San Angelo University football game Saturday I saw true grit and the associated meaningful tears of appreciation from many in the stands.

A couple weeks ago during my squadron's Wingman Remembrance On-Call Exercise, I saw true grit in their faces as they marched tired yet undaunted in honoring each of our Air Force enlisted Medal of Honor recipients and those that suffered during the grueling Bataan Death March. True grit is real, it's tangible and it's awesome when it's truly realized.

We are a nation that remains currently engaged in a global struggle with the safety and security of our nation at stake. Don't forget the power of true grit - find it and harness it - it's paramount to our individual and collective success as a nation.