November: A month of remembrance, giving thanks

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Brenda Degnan
  • 62nd Maintenance Squadron
I recently read Gen. Robinson Risner's book, The Passing of the Night.

In his book, Risner describes his seven-year experience as a prisoner of war in Hoa Lo Prison, Vietnam. He explains in great detail the deprivation and despair he and fellow prisoners of war endured such as beatings, torture, broken bones and deplorable living conditions. Despite these horrors, Risner also speaks about humility and blessings.

With the recent Veteran's Day holiday and Thanksgiving approaching, my timing for choosing this particular book could not have been more appropriate.

I was struck with a sense of awe and inspiration as I read the general's words.

"I said a prayer of Thanksgiving for the blessings that had been mine," he said, "And even though I was imprisoned and in stocks, I was glad to be from a country like America."

This man who had endured years of pain and suffering was able to find the strength and perseverance to be thankful for the blessings that so many of us take for granted.

As I read his words, I could not help but to reflect upon some of the moments in my life when I allowed insignificant circumstances to get the better of me.

For example, just yesterday the local area network went down while I was in the process of working on a time-sensitive tasking.

I recall cursing at my computer and telling myself, "That's it. This day is shot. I can't get anything accomplished around here!"

Another example: just last week, my cell phone ceased to function right as I was attempting to pass along an important message to an Airman. I fought the urge to throw the phone across the room in disgust and frustration while simultaneously thinking, "Great. Now I've got to take time out of my impossibly busy day to have my phone repaired. "

As I pondered Risner's harrowing experiences as a prisoner of war, and as I consider just how difficult it must have been to find hope and thanksgiving in such a dreadful place, I was reminded of what is truly important and significant in life.

I was also humbled by his strength and realized that if he could persevere and find gratitude in a place as close to hell as any on earth, then I certainly had no reason to feel disparaged over something as trivial as a broken cell phone.

So as November passes by, not only take the time to consider the hardships and sacrifices of those who have served our nation so honorably, but also find the time to reflect on what is truly important in life. And finally, be thankful to be from a country like America.