Meaning of family

  • Published
  • By By Lt. Col. Erick Lawson
  • 316th Training Squadron Commander
What does the word family mean to you? Every one of us has our own definition of what constitutes a family and with the definition comes a different meaning or understanding of what our family make up should look like. If you said your spouse, children, mother, father, brother, sister or grandparents, then I would say that you are correct but at the same time the word family means so much more. 

To me the word family can be broken down into three layers, the immediate, extended and inclusive family. These three layers are integral in teaching us to be responsible, accountable and nurturing while shaping our growth as men or women and to a further extent representatives of our selected service. 

For me the immediate family is made up of my closest loved ones, in this case my wife of 13 years and our two boys. For those that have not found your life- long partner yet, their immediate family could mean their parents, grandparents or siblings. 

This layer refers to the people whom you trust the most, the individuals who you feel safe with your inner most secrets. In return these loved ones are the ones who provide us with the guidance and sage advice which shapes our lives and establishes our foundation as young adults. Thus, these are the people who provide us with that sense of responsibility and understanding of what is right and wrong. 

Inherently we always want to do right by them ensuring we do not disappoint them with our decisions and actions. Often times when we are faced with a decision we reach down inside ourselves and ask what would mom do, what would dad do or will this action hurt my wife and children. Our foundation of behavior is very often built by this group of people and the influences they impart in our lives are responsible for us being able to make sound logical decisions, which afford us an opportunity for expansion in our lives at which point we expound on the lessons and experiences of the extended family layer. 

The extended family is made up of our next closest loved ones, meaning our brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts or even cousins. This layer refers to the group of people whom we trust and look to for advice on life's lessons because often times their actions and lives have ventured outside of our immediate families. Often times the extended family members relate their lessons with stories or anecdotes about how when faced with difficult decisions they came to their conclusions. 

Sometimes these loved ones did not necessarily make the right decision. Like when your favorite Uncle Frank sat on top of a government vehicle and ripped the canvas top. When asked, "Private, what is your name," he replied "Private Joe Bodyollie, Sir." knowing fully well that was not his correct name, but by giving the officer a false name he knew that there was no way the incident could be traced back to him and he would not receive immediate punishment. He tells us this story so that we will see the humor, but more importantly to see that he did wrong by not accepting responsibility for his actions by admitting to destroying government property. 

Additionally, he wants to help us in defining our character and integrity, by doing the right thing even when nobody is watching, admitting that we are dutiful and grown up enough to accept responsibility for our actions. 

Our family members also play a huge role in our lives by providing love and support for us when we are experiencing periods of isolation, despair or loneliness. Often times these moments come when we are removed from the daily interaction with our immediate and extended family members. These times come to us all at different periods in our lives. For me this period came when my wife and I were facing some severe medical issues. We had each other to lean on but we longed for the support and comfort which comes from others around us. We received that comfort and support from our inclusive family. 

The inclusive family which I speak of can take the form of friends, church members, local community members and your squadron. The military prides itself in always filling the void which is left by our immediate or extended family whether in a time of crisis, despair or just in everyday interaction. The Air Force family is always there for the needs of our Aimen just as our sister services are. Equally, I have experienced this same extension of hospitality and generosity from the community of San Angelo. In my 17 years of service I have not found a community which welcomes and looks after their military representatives the way the wonderful citizens of San Angelo do. 

All of our lives we have embraced our immediate and extended family members and now I challenge all of you reading this to go out and embrace the warmth and hospitality of our new inclusive family members and thank them for all that they do for us and the support they provide us when we need it the most. We bequeath the community outside of our gates the responsibility to support and defend their rights as American citizens and in return they ensure that our contributions do not go unnoticed.

 Our family, be it immediate, extended, inclusive or whatever title we have established, surround us at all times teaching us life's lessons giving us the tools to make the right decisions or choices and invest in our well being, comfort and love. As a family unit we are always here for one another and our needs in order to make each and every one of us the best representatives of the United States Air Force, Army, Navy or Marines, because without service members who are mentally and physically healthy, we as a service are unable to provide this great nation the level of protection they have become accustomed to.