Punctuality Shows Respect

When I finally woke up that morning, it was a quarter after nine and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. I don’t think I took a shower and I’m pretty sure I gargled with milk while speeding toward the National Guard armory.

This traumatizing event took place in June of 2006. It was my first day in the Alabama National Guard. I was two hours late.

“Get here when you can,” said a smiling Lieutenant Colonel Gore when I walked through those doors.

If you don’t know, “Get here when you can” is not a term of endearment.

What a way to make a first impression!

In all my years in the Regular Army, I was never late, although I cut it close a few times, but close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and according to my Uncle Wayne, dancing.

Little Fulla and Uncle Wayne...a year or two ago.

Little Fulla and Uncle Wayne…a year or two ago.

To the best of my fleeting knowledge, that’s my only transgression regarding tardiness at my unit. There have been times I showed up and did nothing but at least I showed up and did nothing in a timely and punctual manner.

I tell every Soldier that the secret to success in the military is simple: be at the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform, with the right attitude. Everything else takes care of itself.

I failed to follow my own advice that first day and have been ribbed about it ever since, in a joking manner, of course.

Punctuality is the character trait for the month of September in the city of Opelika. Punctuality, of course, means being on time or prompt with respect to meetings, appointments, or projects such as submissions of newspaper articles to the Opelika Observer.

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I recently created a project with a specified deadline where I requested birthday cards from around the country for a local World War II hero. Knowing that people in general have problems with punctuality, I fidgeted with the date to ensure the cards were received prior to his birthday. Although I appreciate each and every person who took the time to show their respect for this hero, the manipulation of the date turned out to be a good call on my part.

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Speaking of World War II heroes, I recently spent the day with one who was in town visiting his daughter, my 11th grade English teacher. I was told to be there at 3:00 and rest assured I was there well before the proposed time. The respect for my former teacher was enough to be punctual but the respect for her father was the proverbial icing on the cake.

The man makes some mean homemade peach ice cream!

The man makes some mean homemade peach ice cream!

Being late to this get-together was not an option and my punctuality was rewarded by incredibly inspiring and intriguing stories of his time in Europe during the war, not to mention the homemade peach ice cream that night.

As the newest member of the Opelika Character Council, I attended my first meeting last week and made sure I was there on time. In fact, I was the first person there.

My friend and fellow character council member, Jan Gunter, says it best: Punctuality shows your respect for others. People who make it a habit of showing up to meetings on time or handing in reports or projects on time are saying with their actions, “I respect you and understand that your time is just as valuable as mine.”

“If you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late” is a rule of thumb and statement often heard in the military and is sound advice for us all in our daily lives.

There is, however, an exception to the rule when related to doctor’s appointments. In cases as such, just get there when you can, because you know the doctor will.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer, and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.


Hard Times & Character

“The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world brother.” Charles Dickens

In the mid-nineties, I was stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, for a couple of years.

It was by far the worst assignment of my military career, which includes multiple tours in Iraq, and had no positive impact on my life whatsoever. It was a worthless stop along my military career.

Or was it?

Two weeks ago, while teaching a resilience class in Mobile to my fellow guardsmen, I was contacted by a member of the Opelika Character Council about serving on their committee.

Naturally, I thought they’d contacted the wrong Jody Fuller, but upon further review, they had the right guy.

The City of Opelika became an official “City of Character” on April 3, 2007, when the Opelika City Council unanimously adopted the resolution, because city leaders in both the private and public sector decided that character building was an important piece of our community’s development.

Opelika: A City of Character

There is a different character trait each month and the intent is for each of us to promote the monthly trait amongst our family, friends, and workplace.

Character traits for 2013 have included civility, integrity, and courage, while punctuality, discernment, gratefulness, and joyfulness will close out the year.

Endurance, the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity, is the character trait for the month of August, which brings me back to Ft. Sill.

Although it seemed like a couple of years, I was actually only stationed there for 15 months.

Prior to this assignment, I was a medic stationed at Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center, the largest U.S. hospital in Europe. We provided care for soldiers, their dependents, and retirees. We also had real world missions where we took care of patients ranging from the Army Rangers from Somalia to civilians injured in a mortar explosion in Sarajevo.

My promotion to Private First Class while stationed at Landstuhl, Germany.

It was high-speed stuff. I was making a difference. Life was good.

Upon arrival at Ft. Sill, I was assigned to a field artillery unit and immediately knew that life was no longer good, although I did get really good at picking up trash, cutting grass, and handing out ear plugs and foot powder.

We spent a lot of time in the field where the extremes of hot and cold resulted in misery. The relentless wind only made it worse.

I once pulled KP for 39 straight hours while in the field.

In April 1995, we, the medics, were on call to provide assistance at the Murrah Federal Building, site of the Oklahoma City bombing, but were never called upon.

Later that summer, my battalion was on tap to deploy to Guantanamo Bay as part of a humanitarian mission to support more than 20,000 Cuban refugees; however, that mission was aborted for the battalion, as only one battery was needed.

Two medics deployed with the battery, but neither of them was named Fuller; he was assigned to baggage detail.

I always did my job and remained hopeful, but it just seemed like a complete waste of time.

I could go on and on about the hard times at Ft. Sill but will cut it short just as my time there was. Fortunately, my commander authorized a 90-day early out for me after I was accepted into college.

Finally, there was good fortune.

On Sunday, I drove onto post for the first time since May 24, 1996, and have been here all week.

As I stroll down memory lane, I realize that this place wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the time.

I served with some great guys who I’m still friends with today.

With some of my fellow medics at Ft. Sill, circa 1995. (L-R, Corey, Banks, me, JP (RIP), Bobby, and Devo.

I really liked my First Sergeant, too. He would give me a hard time about my stuttering but it wasn’t mean spirited. I’ve always had trouble with words beginning with the letters “F” and “S”, so if he knew I was alone at the aid station, he’d call me on the phone just to hear me answer, “First and Seventeenth Field Artillery, this is Specialist Fuller. How may I help you, sir or ma’am?” As if I didn’t have enough trouble with, “Hello.”

“I’m just messing with you, brother,” he’d say in the midst of laughter.

In hindsight, I can tell you that my time here was not a waste of time, because endurance builds character. In fact, it is one of the 23 traits of character in Army leadership.

Romans 5: 3-4 says it best: More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

And with hope, all things are possible.

That’s what I’m talking about, brother.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer, and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.