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How to live life

  • Published
  • By Karen Petitt
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

There's a poster hanging at my desk entitled "How to Live Life According to Capt. Brandon Cyr."  On this poster are six simple suggestions for living life to its fullest, and while there have been many who have offered similar lists, this one is special.

It's special because this list comes not from the former aerial refueling pilot who was stationed here, but from his friends and coworkers who honored him during a memorial held in May 2013. 

Cyr was just 28 when he was killed in an aircraft crash in Afghanistan. He was one of four crewmembers who perished April 27, 2013, aboard an MC-12 reconnaissance aircraft during an operational mission there.

And while it was noted that he had extensive combat flying experience and was a pilot instructor for the KC-135 tanker aircraft, it was his "sense of humor, thoughtfulness and dedication" to the mission and people that resonated at the memorial.  Here's how they say we can live life according to Capt. Brandon Cyr:

First and foremost it was his smile that people remembered the most.  Even in choosing the photo for his obituary, family members chose a picture of his sometimes quirky, but affectionate, smile that captured the essence of his character and attitude. 

Haven't we all read studies that show that smiling can actually "cause" happiness and that it decreases stress? Heck, it even makes you look better according to some articles.  So why does it seem so difficult to do some days? Cyr made it seem easy, and we can, too. It doesn't cost anything but a little effort, but the effects will be long lasting.

There's a great saying that goes like this: "A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."  I know when I look at this poster and see his smiling face next to it, it reminds me to smile, too.

Be thankful for every day you have
He was remembered for appreciating every day he had in the squadron as shown by how he worked to get to know everyone.  His time in the squadron here wasn't just a pit stop onto his next assignment, but a place where he jumped in and contributed. It didn't matter if it was an operational mission, or an additional duty, or some type of office function, he was usually found at the center of the activities helping to make it a success.

It's usually during the holiday season when people take time to reflect on the things they are thankful for, and there are lists and challenges and blogs to document it.  There's also a way to show gratitude for every day you have and that's by being present in the moment, giving people your attention, or putting the cell phone down to talk to people.  That's how he showed his thanks to people around him.  His example reminds me to work on this aspect of daily gratitude.

This may seem similar to "smile" and while Cyr liked to tell jokes--albeit corny ones apparently--this didn't mean he was the squadron comedian. Although his coworkers did say he could be telling some kind of funny story or laughing at someone else's jokes frequently, he was far from goofing off. It was more about him having a sense of humor which is also the ability to see humor in life's absurdities. 

There is still a real need for people to find humor even in difficult situations and to appreciate the lighter moments of life. One look at the comments on social media forums and you'll understand the need for people to "lighten up" and just laugh at the craziness of it all.  We're not going to change anything by getting angry or calling people names, so let's just ... laugh it off.

Spend time with each other telling stories
If there's a common theme about the way Cyr lived his life, it would be in how he enjoyed getting to know people.  The life of a military member means there are long hours at work and long separations from family.  Members of a unit get to know each other as they serve, but when work was done and there was bit of downtime, they all said that Cyr would just want to hang out and talk.  It wasn't just "pleasantries" but he "really wanted to know about each person."

I am reminded to take inventory of how well I'm getting to know the people around me. Do they know that I care about them? Have I asked them about their families lately? I'm thankful for the gentle reminder that life isn't just about the "task" but our journey as we travel the planet together and that it's important to connect with each other as we do so.   

Eat cookies
This one is my favorite!  Cyr was known as being quite the chef as he routinely brought in goodies for the unit. Whether it was an old favorite or a newly acquired recipe, he shared cookies, cakes, and any other form of sweet--or otherwise--treat from his kitchen. 

Of course, that makes it more important to stay on top of your fitness regimen, but who doesn't like a little treat now and then?  But more important is that I've come to understand it's not about the cookie itself.  It's more about sharing the gift that is you.  It doesn't have to be cookies. It can be giving of your time or providing service or even sharing a smile.  The cookie is just a symbol, so it's what we choose to give that's more important ... and if you choose cookies, then that's certainly an added bonus!

Tackle life with an open mind
Friends and coworkers remembered Cyr for his ability to take advantage of all the opportunities that came his way such as the deployment to Afghanistan.  It was something challenging, but he "tackled it" straight on.  Everyone who goes into harm's way knows there's always a risk involved, but you don't let that stop you from doing your job. 

Sometimes life brings us challenges that seem overwhelming, but if we were to be like Cyr, we would just dig in and do it.  I've also learned that life is not a straight path from point A to B and that sometimes we need to embrace the deviations.  All things lead to our growth and experience, and can be used for storytelling fodder, too!

Ultimately I think this list tells us a lot about the kind of person Cyr was and that we'd all want him as a friend. Some people have been true gifts to the world, and in his short time on Earth, he was one.  The challenge is will that be the same with us?  What will people say of how we lived our life?  Will it be something to emulate or to inspire? I think it can be if we mirror the simple yet profound way this young Airman and great patriot lived.