Work Hard – Tell the Truth

  • Published
  • By Col. Lloyd Buzzell

On March 1, 2024, I complete more than 37 years of service in the U.S. Air Force spanning the last 40 years.  I have been truly blessed and humbled to be allowed to advance from Airman to Colonel and experience some amazing opportunities.

The Air Force provided a culture that allowed me to serve and develop as an Airman and as a person.  Our core values of Integrity, Service and Excellence are baked into all that we do and assist in the success of the people and mission.  However, the basis of everything that I was able to achieve and experience is based on what my parents taught me.

A few years ago, my mother suddenly passed away just a few days short of 90 years of age.  Myself and my son along with our wives had to clean out my mother’s house in only a few days.  Most of the things in the house were either given away, donated or simply thrown away.  During that emotional weekend I thought about what we leave behind and what our legacy is.  I quickly realized that my parent’s legacy was summed up in just five words.  Work hard, tell the truth.

Both my parents were role models of hard work and I can’t remember them ever taking a day off from work for sickness.  My dad and mom were blue-collar workers as a pipefitter/welder and registered nurse and most likely lower-middle-class wage earners.  My father would often travel great distances from home to find work and be gone for a week at a time.  He would often work 10 to 16-hour days and then return home on Friday night and leave again on Sunday night.  Meanwhile, my mom worked many night shifts and overnights to help pay the bills.  I can’t ever remember hearing either one of them complain.  Hard work isn’t taught by words, it is taught by our actions.  Our Air Force requires hard work every day that includes long hours, time away from family and sometimes unpleasant tasks.  Hard work alone does not make you successful but it is the basis for perseverance.  Great leaders exhibit these traits and teach others to follow them through their actions.  Hard work is captured the Air Force values of ‘Excellence in All We Do’ and ‘Service Before Self.’

One summer weekend when I was very young boy, I took five dollars that was in our kitchen that was not mine.  When my mom discovered it, she thought it was one of the boys that were visiting the house that weekend.  I didn’t immediately admit my actions until my mom starting calling other parents.  When I did admit to it, my mom sat me down and told me it was wrong to take the five dollars but was very disappointed in me that I had not admitted to it right away.  She told me she never imagined that I would do such a thing, so she had never even asked me about it.  I had lost her trust.  However, she said that if I really needed the money that I should have the five dollars and told me that regardless of what happens that we always “tell the truth.”  She gave me the five dollars; however, I received other punishments that week as a consequence. I don’t know what happened to that five-dollar bill but I put it away and never spent it. 

In the Air Force everything is built on ‘Integrity First’ and anything less than that compromises the basis of any success we have.  For our Air Force team to be successful, leaders must always find ways to reward and display integrity regardless of consequence.  People will respect your words by the actions you take each day.

After nearly 40 years if I could leave something behind for our Airman today to think about it would be the words “work hard, tell the truth.”  There is so much to those words but is a simple message that working hard and honesty is the basis for our core values that make our Air Force successful.