Remembering Tunisia: One of My International Incidents

June 11, 2010 — Leave a comment

As everyone who knows me knows, I’m a risk taker. I will take risks to achieve an objective. In one case, the objective was to go to Tunisia on vacation with a British travel agency.

I was in the US Air Force stationed in England at the time. In the military to take vacation, you must provide a physical address for where you will be while on vacation. It’s a simple rule, but one I did not and for some reason could not comply with. So I lied. A little white lie – I mean who’s going to be hurt, by my not being honest in where I’ll be while on vacation? Mistake #1

Fast forward a few months. We’re in Tunisia enjoying the Mediterranean sun and culture of a Muslim country. After a couple days I fell ill and ended up in a hospital for 3 days. This was before the use of cell phones throughout the world and communications were still run by manual switchboard operators in hotels – none of which spoke English. I was stranded. Meanwhile, Sheri and Stephen were running all over the country having a blast. Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

Once I recovered from the death march caused by poorly prepared food, I decided to make a call back to base and try to get those 3 days converted to “sick leave” to save my vacation. Mistake #2 I left a message on someone’s answering machine, which when calling from pay phones in 3rd world countries is not advisable. Mistake #3. The message was cut off and all they got was that I was in the hospital. This triggered a sequence of events that to this day amazes me.

My boss called my brother (who I gave as an emergency contact during Mistake #1),

who called my mother,

who called my mother-in-law,

who called the US Embassy in Tunisia,

who called the US Embassy in London,

who called my base commander and we all know where that crap rolled to…

When I finally made it back home, I showed up at work and was escorted directly to the base commander’s office. It almost ended with an article 15, but instead they opted for a Letter of Reprimand (LOR), which for an E-6 is a big deal.

If I had been honest and done the work of providing an address, not been greedy over 3 vacation days, and acted with integrity, none of this would have happened. The lesson learned is that I was self-centered and was willing to take (what seemed like) a minimal risk to get what I wanted the way I wanted it. Instead, my actions caused serious problems for my family (all they knew is that I was hospitalized in Tunisia Africa), the embassies having to deal with my family, the base commander having to explain why one of his troop’s whereabouts was unknown, to my boss who didn’t ask too many questions.

My one little white lie turned into a really big deal for a lot of folks. I was not allowing any authority to rule over me and I paid the price. Today I work much harder at submitting to authority and measuring the risk of my decisions more closely by seeking counsel, prayer, and discussing things with my wife.

What decision have you made out of rebellion that came back on you? Did you learn anything?

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