Monday, August 4, 2014

Of Lawnmowers and Parachutes

My lawnmower, photo by J. Berta

Greetings All:

I heard about a tragic event that occurred last fall.  A decorated combat leader of our armed forces died during an airborne training mission at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  When I reference "airborne," I mean he and a number of Soldiers performed a parachute jump as part of a regular training exercise. 

The deceased, Colonel Darron Wright, was without question a warrior.  He had served three tours in Iraq and was on the verge of a tour in Afghanistan before his death.  The day after his untimely death, Colonel Wright's commanding officer, Lieutenant General Joe Anderson, offered these words:

"We are deeply saddened by yesterday's events and our thoughts and prayers are with his family...The XVIII Airborne Corps has sustained the loss of a superb paratrooper and a magnificent officer who served with marked distinction and honor throughout his career." (Cite to The Army Times, link to the article below in sources.)
 Yet he was also a thinker.  He penned a memoir, Iraq Full Circle, of how he saw it in Iraq and holds folks accountable and senior ones at that.  He also tells it like it is to be in combat.  I have a link to Amazon below that has comments about the book.  They are all laudatory (not surprising).  I find it more telling the comments about the author being a leader and a deeply respected one at that.

It is a damn shame this great American and leader died in what appears to have been a preventable accident.  I am not going to go into great detail about the report following this fatal accident.  I have the link below and I do invite you to read it.  I will say it is a cautionary tale about the importance of safety and following procedures.

Many of us will never jump out of a plane or experience anything close to what Colonel Wright and his troops did in combat.  It may be tempting (if not comforting) to say, "Well, that is a shame, but there's no real application to me."

I was thinking the same thing.  Then last night, as we were watching "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," I went out to the garage for a seltzer.  It was there I saw my lawnmower and this blog post was born.

We do not have a big lawn and I can cut it in about an hour.  It's not a self-propelled model and that is fine with me, as I get some (much-needed) additional exercise.  I try to remember to wear earplugs and safety glasses or at least sun glasses.  But not always.

But not always.

See, sometimes, I'm in rush.  I got distracted or delayed (maybe doing a blog post) and rain is threatening.  So I'll charge out into the yard.  And I'll forget either the earplugs or the glasses.

Oh sure, I know I should wear them.  But really, what's the chance anything's going to happen?  After all, I've cut my grass hundreds of times.  Only a few times have things flown up in my face.  And after growing up on a steady diet of Judas Priest and Van Halen, my hearing's already shot, so what real harm can one grass cutting do?

I think we all, at times, convince ourselves it is OK to cut corners.  Whether its not putting on our seat belt when we run to the store (just down the street, after all) to the dozens of daily tasks we do where we just "forget" not to adhere to some aspect of safety.  We certainly do not want to have an accident.  I certainly do not want to suffer an injury cutting my grass.

You might be thinking, "How can you compare cutting your grass to a parachute jump?!?"  I am not, at least in the sense of saying that the degree of danger is anywhere close.  What I am offering is a point of reference regarding safety.  From the report I read, it appears the Colonel Wright's death was due to a series of deviations from protocol.  These deviations had tragic results.

I would argue that if you play the averages, you likely will be just fine driving to the store without wearing your seat belt.  Yet it only takes one collision to ruin your whole day.  As for my lawnmower, one small rock, one bit of a broken branch to the face and I've got a permanent Halloween costume as a pirate, complete with the eye patch.  

And I would offer this connection between parachutes and lawnmowers.  I never met Colonel Wright.  I only know of what I have read of him.  It appears he was someone who stood ready to shoulder any burden for our nation.  I am certain he would not have gotten on that plane that fateful September morning if he did not think all was well.  Yet unexpected events occurred.  

It's the same thing with any of the dozens of things we do everyday that have a chance of causing us harm.  The chance is low but the consequences can be catastrophic.

I also have been attempting to take more responsibility for my actions, large and small.  To recognize that I have more control over my life than I might realize.  However, if I want to truly leverage this realization, I have to own my actions.  I expect to never jump out of a C-130 yet I will be cutting the grass again.  

And when I do, I better have on both my glasses and earplugs.

R.I.P. Colonel Wright, thank you for your service and God bless your family.

Be well my friends...and safe.


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