Exploring different paths enhances your ‘life story’

  • Published
  • By Agent Eric Knapp
  • Air Force Office of Investigations Det. 522 commander
No one who knew my grandfather would have described him as a "nice guy." 

He was a bootlegger during prohibition, took mobsters from Chicago on hunting trips, spent far more time sitting on a bar stool than on a church pew, and was a regular tavern brawler. 

Of course, by the time I came along, he had mellowed some and tolerated my endless questions about what life was like in the North Woods before World War II. 

One of the lessons he passed along while showing me how to hunt deer out of season from the back of a pick-up truck occurred when I asked him if he had any regrets. The old man paused for a long time, deep in thought. Finally, he said his only regret were the things he had left undone. He didn't regret his many mistakes since they helped make him the person he was today. 

The idea that one should seize opportunities and make the most of their trek through life stuck with me long after I forgot the finer points of poaching deer. 

You probably expected an article from the Office of Investigations commander to be full of cautionary force protection warnings about avoiding crowds, dressing conservatively, washing your vegetables and looking both ways before crossing the street. Well, all that is good advice, but you hear that sort of message regularly from your supervisor, first sergeant and, every once in a while, during a riveting Armed Forces News commercial. 

What we don't hear as often, but bears repeating, is that we are in an amazing country with incredible places just waiting to be explored. Seize the opportunity you have here: take that Information Tickets and Tours trip, try new food or make a new Turkish friend. The Turks I've met off the beaten path have been incredibly gracious and are genuinely interested in talking to an American. 

Turkey, especially for new arrivals to Incirlik, can be a little intimidating. In this post 9/11 world, it is easy to see yourself as a target and adopt a 'hunker down' mentality. I urge you to consider just the opposite -- we in the military are some of our country's best ambassadors. Get out and travel, spend some time drinking chi, learn a few Turkish words, and you will be amazed at how much you absorb, while at the same time, what you are able to teach. 

The paths we take through life are seldom without unexpected branches and forks. Don't let yourself look back on your time at Incirlik and regret all the things you didn't go see, do and experience. 

In the words of the poet Stephan Grellet, "Any good thing ... let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." 

I think my grandfather would have agreed, bought you a beer and asked you to tell him your story.