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Make each day count

  • Published
  • By Col. John Flournoy
  • 349th Air Mobility Wing commander
For millions of people, this past Superbowl weekend was all about the National Football League's big game featuring the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. For both teams and their fans, it was the culmination of an entire year's worth of ups and downs, dealing with adversity and injury and overcoming personal and professional hardships while trying to stay focused on the ultimate prize.

Little did I realize that the biggest take away that I had from spending four and a half hours in front of the television was from a 34 year old former New Orleans Saints safety and special teams player Steve Gleason.

Many of you may have missed the pre-game coverage that included interviews of former coaches and players as well as half-time entertainers all making predictions on the outcome of the game. There was one story in particular that everyone needed to hear.

It was the story of a young man who had worked his whole adult life to achieve a goal of playing as a professional in the NFL. It was the story of a man who overcame unbelievable odds as an undrafted player to be signed by the New Orleans Saints in November 2000.

He went on to play for seven seasons with the Saints and was responsible for one of the most exciting and memorable plays in the franchise's history.

In the first game played in the New Orleans superdome following the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Gleason blocked a punt against the Atlanta Falcons resulting in the first score following a 21 month hiatus. It was a play that ignited the entire city and showed the rest of the world that New Orleans was back.

Gleason was on top of the world. Outside of football, he created the One Sweet World Foundation, an organization designed to focus on literacy and the environment. His foundation helped launch Backpacks for Hope, an effort to get backpacks and school supplies to young victims of Hurricane Katrina. He retired from the Saints in 2008 and set new goals for himself.

In January 2011, Gleason received the horrible news that he's been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease. News that would certainly test the spirit of the most courageous heroes. The biggest message of the entire big game coverage for me, was how this hard charging man would deal with the fact that he had a terminal disease and how he chose to live his life.

It should be no surprise to any of you that Gleason chose to live life with ALS just as he did without it. "Most of us don't live like we have a time line," he said.

We can all learn a powerful message about life from Gleason.

I know it made me ask myself, are you living your life like you have a timeline? Are you living every day to its fullest, setting goals for yourself, going after them and taking the time to help others achieve theirs before life's timeline is defined for you? Are you living the Air Force core values every day, on and off duty? Are you being a good wingman for your family, your loved ones and your coworkers? How will you chose to live each day of your time line?