As an American who had the opportunity to serve my country, I have been very fortunate to see and learn some of the most fascinating lessons that our world has to offer. I have experienced other cultures, worked with the most dedicated and patriotic Americans, and was given more responsibility than any other 19 year-old that I have ever met when I deployed in 2002. I also saw very ugly things that provided me with a unique perspective on life, dangerous people and the precarious world in which we live.
Last month, one of the greatest responsibilities came into my life; my son, Miles Diego. There are so many things that I know he is going to experience in life. These are the five values with which I want him to face life.
Life doesn’t have to be nasty, brutish and short… Life is full of wonderful people, opportunity and adventure. We are fortunate to live in the West as we enjoy many freedoms, an abundance of resources and the opportunity to work hard and achieve higher socioeconomic status. In many parts of the world, access to education and prospects to climb social ladders simply do not exist. Educate yourself, see the world and keep an open mind.
Always pay it forward…Throughout my professional and personal lives, I have been privileged to have access to many mentors. These people have coached me through many of life’s challenges and have been there for me during difficult times. In addition, they helped shape me into the person that I am. My suggestion is that you mentor people to accomplish their goals and pay it forward as we can never succeed on our own. Whenever there is a chance to do a good deed or help someone, pay it forward!
Stand firm for what you believe in... You will find in life that your integrity and principles define who you are as a person. Having a high moral standard is a prized possession and no one can take that away from you. There will be many temptations in life to take the easy road, to lie, cheat, steal, etc. but never give in; the attraction of getting ahead in life is great but never do it at the expense of others or society. Stay honest, stand firm on your principles and compromise them for no one no matter what the circumstance.
Always serve others…Selfless service is what our family is built on. We are public servants, we educate others. we support causes that we believe in and it is of the utmost importance to give society more than you will take. This world has done many good things for your mother and I but nothing would have been possible without the assistance and service from others. Always sacrifice your time, donate to causes and assist others in times of need. We only grow as people if our community succeeds and you should always strive to leave society in a better place.
Take advantage of everything the world offers you… This is a big world and there a lot of amazing things in it! Take advantage of everything. See the world! Experience cultures, eat food, learn languages and customs and work with others to understand their social mores, religion, history and background. Educate and immerse yourself in as much as possible!
Miles Diego, you get one shot in life; this is the best wisdom that I can pass on given my experience so far. Enjoy life as it is precious and always remember that you have a sense of duty, purpose, service, honor and country, be well and enjoy it!
James Leiman is a Veteran of the U.S. Army and currently works as a Section Chief at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He is an adjunct professor and currently lives in Maryland.