NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
“I was in an undercover [police] survival class and they said if you can recognize or comprehend that you have been shot, then you can live. At that point you can address the injury and call for help. In life, a lot of times, it’s the same way. We don’t recognize or comprehend that we have been shot (injured) and we suffer or die, because we never called for help or treated the wound. Recognizing you are shot in life is key to living.”
Following the death of his wife, Chief Master Sgt. Nathan Parks, 726th Operations Group Superintendent, rebuilt his life, learning how to be a single father of two special-needs children and overcoming physical injury. He also learned surviving a major life event didn’t preclude him from facing another tragedy nor did it preclude him from dealing with everyday stressors.
“Life doesn’t keep score on tragedy and stress. It doesn’t care who you are, what job title you have, what you’ve been through in the past or what you’ll go through in the future,” Parks said. “Stress and life know no bias.”
Looking at Parks’ life, some may say it has been marred by tragedy. However, as Parks recounts his life he does so not as a bid for sympathy or to boast about his coping skills. He does so to show that stress and tragedy are universal, but not insurmountable.
Shortly after Parks was promoted Chief, he received another knock on his door. This time it was a police officer telling him it was no longer safe for his oldest daughter to live in his family home due to mental illness.
With one knock, his life drastically changed again. He said he felt guilt and shame at being a leader trying to give advice while his life had been turned upside down and he had no way of fixing it.
“Sometimes as leaders we get put on a pedestal stool of having life figured out, and on the surface it may seem that way,” he said. “But on the inside leaders are still dealing with their own issues.”
The guilt and shame changed for Parks when he found the courage to share with coworkers who noticed a change in his behavior.
“It was those people that really let me know that no matter what I was going through, I wasn’t going through it alone,” he said.
Parks emphasized our breaking point doesn’t always come from major life events, the accumulation of little stressors can also bring us to our knees.
“I went through life’s best punch, but that doesn’t mean life’s little punches don’t still bother me,” he said.
He encourages supervisors, friends and family members to be present in one another’s lives enough to notice when someone is not themselves.
“The small pieces and the little steps matter,” Parks said. “We underestimate what 20 seconds can do, we underestimate what those little questions can do.”
Parks discovered the small steps that add value to his day is investing time in others and making a daily positive impact. He stresses his faith has been the foundation of his resiliency through major and minor life events, but he encourages everyone to ask themselves how they can make everyday a success.
“It’s worth the time and effort to figure what adds value to your life, to figure out now what makes every day successful,” he said.
Regardless of how many times Parks has been injured by life, he continues to call for help and treat his wounds, striving to make every day a success.