Page 88 - Jackson Journal
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                  my role in being an Army professional. I was more worried about myself than seeing the needs of others.
Was being arrested the worst-case scenario for this decision? Absolutely not. What if my attention had been distracted for a few seconds, we could have hit something in the road or swerved off the road uncontrollably. One or all of the trainees could have been seriously hurt or killed with the van’s speed. How would I deal with helping the trainees out of the van after the accident? How would I communicate with or even look at the trainees’ families? Having to write a letter to the trainee’s families, this is what I wrote:
Dear Smith Family,
With a heavy heart and sadness, am I writing
this letter to you. I am writing this letter to you
today as a husband and father wanting to send my deepest condolences to you and your family to lose your son. I am deeply sorry for the tragedy I have caused your family. I want you to know that I take full responsibility for your son’s death because of
the accident. I should have let someone else drive
the van that day or been more focused on the road and driving. If I could switch places with him, I would in a second. Your son was a smart young
man transitioning his life to serve this great country with distinction. He excelled around his peers and
set a high standard for everyone else to follow. His passion for his family and dedication to serving
his country shine through every day. As a father, I cannot imagine a life in which my sons or daughter are not here anymore and the anger I would have for someone who caused that. I do not know how you would forgive someone for a devastating act like that. I am not asking for your forgiveness because I am not sure I could give it if the roles were different. I want you to know that I will carry this for the rest of my life in my soul. Every time I look at my children, I see the life that I took away from your son and you. I will never forgive myself for what happened on the day of the accident. I am only hoping to try to make up for it somehow every day for the rest of my life.
Deepest Condolences, Ryan Tuell
There is another scenario in which I do not survive either. Who would comfort my wife or raise my children? Do my wife and children know how
much I love them? What type of example did I leave my children with? Who will ensure my wife and children get the help they need and can move on past me? I consider myself lucky that scenario did not happen.
This bad decision should have never come into existence. As a Senior Noncommissioned Officer,
I know all the avenues of support the Army has to offer. I should never have let my pride or compla- cency affect the decisions I was making. I could have talked to my peers about a ride on Tuesday or spoken to the duty drill sergeant about changing my shifts around because of my car situation. I did not want to be a burden on the team, but I caused way more of a burden than if I had just talked to someone because of my bad decision.
At the end of the day, great leaders can make a bad decisions if they are not careful. Every decision I made as a leader impacts not only my circle of influence but also a much greater circle. The ripples from my decisions cascade throughout so many lives that I do not directly affect daily. Reflecting
on this bad decision, I have a new understand and appreciation for why we hold ourselves to such high standards as leaders. I will hold myself accountable to this standard for the rest of my career and the rest of my life—this bad decision has permanently altered how I will make decisions in the future.
SFC Tuell is a Senior Drill Sergeant for Echo Company, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, 165th Infantry Brigade.
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