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Be There for Others

Posted 329 days ago ago by Admin

For many of us, the daily grind of life presents a real struggle. Not because it’s hot outside or the work we do is exhausting. It’s because of battles being fought within us outside of the public eye. For some, these battles started many years ago and continue to influence day-to-day behaviors and thoughts. People are affected by events and life experiences and react to them in different ways. I believe that you can only truly understand someone when you know and understand their past.   

My own life experience is full of events that shaped me into the person that I am today. My perspective on the world and how I choose to engage all facets of my life reflect many years of events, people, and situations that make up who I am as a person. In our early years, home life sets the tone for personal development, but having both parents at home doesn’t automatically mean a stable environment.    

My parental team had an evangelical pastor and diehard alcoholic. The dynamics of this relationship made for constantly changing schools, friends, and often a new place to live. Like clockwork, my father would start drinking around Thanksgiving; my parents would separate, and then usually get back together just after Easter. This cycle often repeated itself, so I coined my father a “holiday drinker.” 

Drinking was his way out of the stresses of life. Alcohol was his demon and like his father before him and his father before him, it was a coping mechanism no matter the cost to himself and others. With the drinking came the violence. Without alcohol, my father was a kind man that would drop anything to help someone when needed. With alcohol, vodka being his spirit of choice, my father changed into an unrecognizable monster.

We had a large family of seven children with two of my sisters already moved on from home when I came along. I was the youngest of the group. In my early years, I remember watching each of my siblings leave home usually after one of my father’s tirades. With each departure, I found myself more alone in an environment I could not change or influence. I was stuck! 

One Christmas Eve, I awoke early to the sounds of yelling and shouting coming from the living room. I went to investigate the noise and found my dad physically abusing my mom on the couch. I engaged my dad to the extent a 7-year-old could and found myself in the direct wrath of his rage. One of the gifts around the Christmas Tree was a brand-new bicycle with a Miami Dolphins logo. My dad grabbed me and while holding my neck he pointed at the bicycle explaining that he bought that bicycle and there was no such thing as Santa Clause. This cycle of behavior lasted for more than a decade of my life.

That story is my reality. It is located somewhere in my rearview mirror of life. It does not define me nor give me reason to feel sorry for myself. The actions of my father provide a very clear path for me to be a better man. I will not be an alcoholic. I will not be an abuser of my wife, children, or anyone else for that matter. The experience I’ve described is not unique to me. All of us have experienced trauma that gets etched in our brain; within these traumatic events, mental health issues may arise. 

No matter the safety systems built into the fabric of the aviation industry, it is assumed the pilots and mechanics will always do their best to operate an aircraft safely. Over the past few years, several aircraft accidents have been attributed to an intentional act of a crew member, which led to the demise of the aircraft and passengers. Even at pilot training facilities, student pilots have ended their lives on solo flights. Often a note is left describing the daily challenges of depression, anxiety, or some other form of mental-health degradation leading them to their suicide. This must change!

Ironically, my life was turned around for the better by my father. He bought me a ride in a helicopter at an airshow when I was 13 years old. This was followed by my first lesson in a Cessna for my 14th birthday. After that flight my father asked if I liked it. I loved it! He then said, “I would recommend you hang out where the airplanes live”. This led to me turning into a hangar rat, and the rest is history.  

Over the years, having the ability to talk about my life challenges helped me. No one judged me or my family. I was able to overcome those challenges and live a meaningful life. Yet, some people never get over their past. 

We need to do a better job of listening, helping, and supporting those that need us, even when we don’t know that they need us. Our industry is small. We usually share a passion that provides a path to engage in conversation with each other. Try to listen to those in need. Watch for signs that could reveal a colleague  needs help or support. Your empathy can go a very long way.

As  radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, here’s “the rest of the story”… my dad stopped drinking about five years before his death. At my wedding, he was my best man.

About the Author: Randy Rowles has been a FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award. Rowles is the owner/president of Helicopter Institute.

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