Category Archives: Red Tail Angels

Looking Back

An Akan proverb, or the Sankofa tells us “We should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward.”

It is hard to believe that the close of 2013 is just weeks away. I feel like this is a good time to circle back and highlight some thoughts I’ve shared over the past 12 months. I chose past writings that speak to some of the holiday ups and downs most of us experience in hopes my words will bring you greater well being and, as always, continued growth! Enjoy…

LIVING HEROICALLY
As far as I know my father never once stepped onto a yoga mat. Yet it is through his example that I learned what living yoga off the yoga mat really means. It’s about attitudes and actions that keep you focused, calm, and non-reactive in the face of life’s challenges. It’s about doing what’s right, not what’s easy.

Lt. Colonel Frederick L. Parker, USAF

Lt. Colonel Frederick L. Parker, USAF

He did this throughout his military career by valiantly fighting, at his own peril, for freedoms that were not always granted to him, because it was the right thing to do. He demonstrated courage by standing up for and insisting on equal treatment for all, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. He proved that obstacles are overcome by committing to relentlessly following your purpose, no matter who or what opposes you. He demonstrated that living life heroically means living life authentically and facing your fears head on, everyday, with an open heart.

LIVING FULLY
leg up framed-_MG_2724To live life fully we are called to live a life of service to others. Ask yourself each day upon awakening, what difference you want to make in someone else’s life. It doesn’t have to be a monumental difference. It could be something as simple as offering a listening ear to a friend in need, making a phone call to someone you’ve been thinking about, or running an errand for a neighbor.

LIVING HOPEFULLY
web_b_MG_6940Do not let limitations or barriers keep you from pursuing your dreams. No achievement comes without obstacles. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue moving toward your goal. Remember no effort you make goes unrewarded. Keep looking for a job if you’re unemployed. Keep applying to schools until you’re admitted. Finish what you start. Don’t give up.

LIVING MORE SLOWLY
b-edit_MG_6892-1For many of us doing has become more important than being. Even though we long for rest and relaxation, these are needs we tend to ignore. We have to talk ourselves into the practice of slowing down and being still. A culture of doers, we have places to go, people to meet, things to do. The only thing we think we can’t do is nothing.

LIVING OPENLY
b_MG_8295The problem with carrying around a secret is that it can be toxic, costing you peace of mind, happiness, even your health. Keeping secrets interferes with your ability to be yourself, and to be intimate with others. It doesn’t matter what your secret is; keeping secrets is a form of dishonesty that causes harm to us physically, psychologically and spiritually, and sometimes causes harm to others.

Yoga teaches us that truthfulness is a guiding principle of our practice both on and off our yoga mat. We learn that by shining a light on the hidden places within ourselves we can safely avoid their stress-related consequences. Even though the thought of revealing a secret can seem scary, once you take that first step, it gets easier.

LIVING WITH STILLNESS
october blog“Go to your room!” “Sit still until I tell you to move!” “You need a time out!” For those of us who grew up hearing these words when we misbehaved, is it any wonder that as adults we have an aversion to being still, to being quiet, or to being alone? When stillness, time-out, and alone time are used as forms of punishment, how likely is it that we would look forward to, much less be able to delight, in stillness?


LIVING WITH CONTENTMENT
grayweb-edit_MG_4513Contentment should not be confused with complacency, which is a state of stagnation, or no growth. Rather, contentment is a sign that we are at peace with our circumstances, and ourselves. Being content does not mean that we have to settle for what we don’t want, whether it is a toxic relationship, unbearable living conditions, or inhumane working conditions. Contentment starts with accepting reality as it is, not as we want it to be. Accepting reality can lead us to make the necessary changes that result in an overall sense of well-being.

Contentment is not the same as happiness. We all face difficult times in our lives. But it is possible to find contentment even in painful circumstances through acceptance of the situation. In the case of a devastating illness, loss or other unwelcomed circumstance, we may go through various stages of emotional turmoil such as denial, anger, and depression before we reach acceptance. But it is possible to find contentment and inner peace, even then….No matter what your circumstance, there is always the possibility of living life more fully.

Contentment is the ability to appreciate how much you have, rather than how much you want.

LIVING LIFE WITH CHANGE
b-edit516Change is risky and can be accompanied by sadness, fear, regret, anger, and disappointment. If you stepped on a nail, it would obviously be painful and you would want to remove it. But before it feels better, removing the nail hurts, sometimes more than staying on it. Truth be told, there are times when we’d rather adjust to and accept a familiar hurt than risk the discomfort of change, even if the change we face leads to something better. But you can’t “put the past behind you and move on” without saying goodbye to what you are leaving.

There is wisdom to be gained by reflecting on change, its inevitability, and how to gracefully accept it. The ability to embrace change is an essential part of living. Accepting the pain that sometimes comes with it is fundamental to the embrace of life itself. Where there is life there is change. Without change there is no growth and no life. To align with life, we must become one with change and “go with the flow.”

 The Rune of Termination and New Beginnings
“The life you have been living has outgrown its form, and must die so new energy can be released. May you undergo a death within your self. You are always free to resist, but remain mindful that the new life is always greater than the old. Prepare then for opportunity disguised as loss.”

Namaste

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A Hero’s Journey

They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary;
They will walk and not grow faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Second Lieutenant Frederick L. Parker, USAF

He never wanted to make history, he just wanted to fly. My father, Frederick L. Parker, Jr., was born June 25, 1920, the third of six children. He grew up on the south side of Chicago, but spent summer vacations with his family on the farm his parents owned in Cassopolis, Michigan. During his youth he loved nothing more than spending lazy summer afternoons, lying on his back, gazing toward the sky in the meadow near the farmhouse. Hands cupped over his forehead to shield his eyes from the sun, he watched birds flying overhead, soaring, dipping and diving for hours at a time. “What freedom!” he thought. He tried to imagine what it would be like to be as free as those birds. My father’s dream was to someday become an aviator.

When he graduated from junior college he was not yet 21, so he had to get his father’s permission to enlist in the Illinois National Guard and attend Officer’s Candidate School. He was later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps. In 1943 he attended pilot training at Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama as part of an “experiment” to train African American fighter pilots.  Graduates of his class of 1944 were an integral part of the infamous 332nd fighter group called the Red Tail Angels.

1944 Graduating class 332nd fighter group

At that time the United States armed forces were racially segregated. The military propaganda was that African American pilots were unfit for anything but the lowest ranks of military service. A report issued by the war college in 1925 stated that Black pilots were not smart enough or disciplined enough to fly combat aircraft. The pilot training program, known as the Tuskegee Experiment, was in actuality designed to prove that the military propaganda of the day was factual.

In spite of the obstacles they faced, these men refused to accept the limitations others tried to place on them. To them, every obstacle they faced was just another door to be opened. The Red Tails flew hundreds of successful missions as bomber escorts over North Africa and Europe, eventually gaining the respect and admiration of the military brass…the same people who questioned their ability and doubted their courage.

Second Lieutenant Frederick L. Parker (at left) and his flight instructor at Tuskegee.

Rather than chasing after and downing enemy aircraft for their own personal glory, these pilots had a reputation for staying with the bombers they were assigned to safeguard. As they flew through enemy territory they risked their own lives to protect the lives of others. It is a matter of record: the Red Tail Angels never lost a single bomber assigned to them. Once they appeared as escorts, the bomber pilots and crews knew without a doubt that they would be protected from enemy fire.

The Tuskegee Airmen  fought a war on two fronts. They helped to destroy Adolph Hitler’s regime, defeating Nazi tyranny.  At the same time they helped end racial segregation in the armed services.  These men wanted both the freedom to fly, and the freedom to fight for their country. In the process, they helped to end oppression abroad as well as at home. They weren’t trying to make history; they were trying to make a difference. By remaining true to their hearts and to their calling, they changed the world.

As far as I know my father never once stepped onto a yoga mat. Yet it is through his example that I learned what living yoga off the yoga mat really means. It’s about attitudes and actions that keep you focused, calm, and non-reactive in the face of life’s challenges. It’s about doing what’s right, not what’s easy. He did this throughout his military career by valiantly fighting, at his own peril, for freedoms that were not always granted to him, because it was the right thing to do. He demonstrated courage by standing up for and insisting on equal treatment for all, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. He proved that obstacles are overcome by committing to relentlessly following your purpose, no matter who or what opposes you. He demonstrated that living life heroically means living life authentically and facing your fears head on, everyday, with an open heart.

Flight Instructor Major Frederick L. Parker (at right) training a new pilot.

Here’s how you can become a hero in your own life and change the world.

To live life fully we are called to live a life of service to others. Ask yourself each day upon awakening, what difference you want to make in someone else’s life. It doesn’t have to be a monumental difference. It could be something as simple as offering a listening ear to a friend in need, making a phone call to someone you’ve been thinking about, or running an errand for a neighbor.

Rather than focusing on what you may be getting out of a relationship, or a situation, shift your focus to what you have to give and offer that. Do this without the expectation of a return.

Do not let limitations or barriers keep you from pursuing your dreams. No achievement comes without obstacles. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue moving toward your goal. Remember no effort you make goes unrewarded. Keep looking for a job if you’re unemployed. Keep applying to schools until you’re admitted. Finish what you start. Don’t give up.

When you know someone has been wronged, or treated unfairly, instead of looking the other way, for fear of others’ disapproval, stand up for what you know is right.

Most of us will never be called upon to put our lives on the line for a person, a cause, or a purpose, but we are called on to live our lives authentically. Only you and you alone can know what that means, but whatever it means, find the courage to be true to it and you will be living life heroically.

Lt. Colonel Frederick L. Parker, USAF

Lt. Colonel Frederick L. Parker, USAF

Namaste

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