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Green Eggs and Ham … Have you tried them lately?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kent Freeman
  • 375th Operations group, Det. 1 Commander
We all grew up with children's stories; either having them read to us by our parents or as parents reading them to our children. One particular author, Dr. Seuss, has always been a favorite of mine, because through his books and stories there are many life-changing lessons to be learned. A classic example comes from one of his most famous books, Green Eggs and Ham. The book has quite a few meanings, but the two distinct and powerful lessons that have influenced my life are: persistence and navigating life with an open mind.

On many occasions throughout my more than 20-year career in the Air Force, I have often found myself following these two lessons in the book portrayed by Sam-I-Am and his unnamed friend. Sam-I-Am is very eager and determined throughout the book. His relentless pursuit and patience in the face of stubborn resistance teaches us to never ever give up on our goals--to continue and persevere. Sam-I-Am teaches us that optimism and positive thinking can overcome just about anything. He also teaches us that outside-of-the-box thinking may be the key to unlock the path to achieving your goals. In life, you are often faced with adversity and challenges which may seem insurmountable, but the important thing is to not give up, try different approaches, and be creative in your thinking. Sam-I-Am never gave up.

The other lesson that I try to apply in my life comes from Sam-I-Am's unnamed friend. He is against trying anything new and unfamiliar. He is clearly opposed to anything Sam-I-Am recommends, and no matter how Sam-I-am presents his case, he refuses to budge. He is set in his ways and experiences and unwilling to accept the offer based off his perceived beliefs. But when he does try the green eggs and ham, he loves it.

In my Air Force career, I have been faced with many Green Eggs and Ham experiences. One occurred very early while attending technical school as an enlisted aircraft armament systems specialist. About halfway through my schooling, I received orders that, upon graduating, I was to be assigned a 15-month remote tour to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. What? Turkey? I was just a small town boy from Madill, Oklahoma, who couldn't point out Turkey on a map if you had asked me! Now the Air Force was sending me to Turkey! Whoa, Green Eggs and Ham ... "I do not like Green Eggs and Ham. I do not like them here. I do not like them there. I do not like them anywhere!" You might say, "You didn't have an option. You had to try them." And I would say, "You are correct." However, if the Air Force had not served this dish to me, I would never have chosen Turkey as my first duty assignment. I would have selected a more exciting location like Florida or Texas but absolutely not Turkey! Nevertheless, I PCS'd to Turkey and was given a healthy dose of my very own Green Eggs and Ham, and I must admit after one week of being in that part of the world, I found myself saying, "I do like Turkey. I do like being here." Turkey turned out to be one of the best assignments I've ever experienced. It is a place that I often fly back to and even today, when the wheels touch down, I have an overwhelming sense of "home" because of the lifelong friendships I made there, the culture I was exposed to, and all the opportunities that came from that one assignment. If the Air Force had never served me my very own Green Eggs and Ham, or if I had completely refused to even give it a try, I would have missed out on an amazing opportunity, which ultimately could have changed the course of my career. In reality, it was that one assignment, my very first assignment, that jump-started my Air Force career and provided the very foundation of who and where I am today.

We, as Airmen, should realize there are going to be crossroads and stepping stones throughout every career; some will be no-brainers, easy decisions on what works best for the Air Force, you, and your family. Others will not be so clear-cut. Some paths, when you peer down the way through the forest, may seem uninviting, unpleasant or even dire; however, if you're willing to experience the opportunity to try something new, you may just find out that you like Green Eggs and Ham. There are no promises or guarantees. It is not always going to be what you expected, but I believe that without knowing whether you like it or not, without at least giving it a shot, you have truly negated any chance for what might be a life-changing experience. There are opportunities around every corner and every assignment and every job can offer you a chance to establish a new foundation and create a more improved you.

So the next time an opportunity presents itself, whether it be in the Air Force or just daily life, you may be faced with the ultimate decision as to whether you're going to try the Green Eggs and Ham of life, or let a potential golden opportunity pass. Go ahead, try those Green Eggs and Ham, take a chance, because you never know, you just might like them, it just might be the turning point of many great things to come, and just like Sam-I-Am's friend, you too may find yourself saying, "I do so like Green Eggs and Ham! Thank You! Thank you, Sam-I-Am."