My treasure box

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- "Hey, Mom, do you have a big box?" my son, Michael, asked the other day. You should know that he collects stuff, and builds things out of boxes, then keeps most of it under his bed. I became noticeably suspicious at this request, mostly because the area under his bed is full at the moment. So, I stalled, using the usual tactics. "Mike, I'm sorry, I don't have a box you can use right now. Are you sure you need another box today?"

Mike's brother chimed in, "Mom, Mike REALLY needs a box. He needs a treasure box." I looked at both the boys and caved. If found a box.

"OK, here's a box, Mike; please don't cut it apart. We'll need it later." Mike gave me one of those looks - you know the one - that expressed so eloquently exactly what he couldn't get away with saying. Some time later, I stopped by the boys' room to see what was in the box. Some clothes. Some favorite toys. A blanket. "Guys, what are you planning with the box?" I was pretty sure neither one had dreamed up the idea of running away - yet at least. "Well, Mom," said Mike, "it's time to move, and the movers packed all the good stuff last time. This time, I'm putting what I want in Stanley." Stanley is my Ford Explorer, named because every part of the family has to have a name, especially the ones which are responsible for keeping us together.

This is my last column for the Monitor. When this is published, my family and I will once again be on the road to a new assignment. So, like the boys, I'm searching for boxes to put my treasures in. The treasure of good friends from past assignments showing up to continue the mission here at Goodfellow. The treasure of seeing someone learn a new skill, and take it to a new mission somewhere else. The treasure of watching young men and women grow confident in their service to us and a grateful nation in a time of war. The treasure of seeing those young men and women teach my children more than I could ever hope to impart about core values, regardless of service affiliation. The treasure of good friends and good neighbors here in San Angelo. Kind of hard to put those things in a box, though. So, although this column isn't about great leadership ideals, isn't about the war on terror and isn't about upcoming exercises and inspections, it is about something as important.

I hope you'll take just a moment to reflect on the treasures you have as you send some friends towards new adventures, welcome new friends to this adventure, and be conscious of the impact you have on everyone around you. Besides the people in my life, and in my family's lives, I have a few other treasures.

You know, it's easy to think to yourself that you can handle things all by yourself. I know I do. But, you know, I've discovered one of my treasures is that one of the ways you can help others is to ask them to help you. It's not an imposition, really. And, the load is lighter when two people carry it.

Another treasure I've discovered is that you can't wait for things to change, you have to make changes yourself. I'm still working on polishing this treasure. But, I learned a lot when I started asking people for help, and now I'm learning that I have to keep moving to make changes. Honestly, when I quit waiting for the telephone to ring, or the e-mail or text message, and just go out and do things I have had a much richer experience.

And, I think the last treasure I have is one of community. I was in the airport recently, and stopped at the USO to relax between flights. The volunteers there greeted me with open arms, and eagerly pulled me into conversation. When I was in uniform downtown last week, I was thanked by several ladies for doing something they wished they could have done - served their country for a career - and for accepting their sacrifices by staying on active duty with a family. My Dad says I can't go anywhere without running into some "military buddy." He should know. He's part of the military buddy community. It's the community that makes the tough days easier, and the easy days pure joy.

The boys are packing their treasures. Hope you have some treasures to pack. I won't say "goodbye;" I will say "see you 'round." You are part of the treasure I take with me. Thank you for doing what you do every day.

(Lt. Col. Baker was the commander of the 17th Medical Support Squadron. For her next assignment, Lt. Col. Baker will be assigned to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.)