My dad was a very unusual military Sargent. Most military people don’t learn the language in the countries where they are sent. They are simply doing their jobs. However, my dad was known as Sargent Diablo in Morocco because he learned to speak Arabic and taught electricity to the Arabs in Arabic. No one did what he did, and the Arabs were amazed at him. There is no American military base in Morocco, so he worked out of the American embassy which is also very unusual. Everything my dad seemed to be or do was unusual. Besides Arabic, he also spoke Thai and Spanish. He had studied Japanese, but couldn’t speak it. He read one book right after another. The most unusual thing about him was if you saw his report cards from when he was a little boy, some teacher gave him straight C’s and said he would never amount to anything. It hurt his feelings a lot, but he proved her wrong. At his funeral, the preacher got up and talked about him saying he was the smartest man he ever met. My dad actually taught at a college without finishing a university degree. He could fix anything and build a house completely by himself right down to the plumbing and electricity. How did he change things from being a C student to being the smartest man you would every meet?
He gave me the advice to never stop learning. He traveled and went sight seeing. He read every evening. When he entered the military, he had just graduated from high school. There were no jobs, and since he was one of the Okies who headed to California during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, he hadn’t even considered going on to college because he had no money. He saw a sign about joining the Air Force, and that is what he did. He wasn’t headed for college. However, once he got into the Air Force, he took classes for college credit and got some college. He realized how important those classes were. He began drilling into me that I would go to college, and I listened. Some of the classes he took were foreign language classes, and every time he learned a new language, the military gave him more stripes. He realized that studying was how to go up in the world.
As for me, I went to college like he told me to, and I became a university professor and can speak even more languages than my dad could. My older sister became a hospital administrator and a military base commander. During the Gulf War, she set up hospitals for the wounded. My brother just younger than me became an engineer in charge of all the electricity in southern Texas. After Katrina, everyone was evacuated, and no one could go home, but he could because he was the one who had to get the electricity back on for everyone. My next brother is also an engineer, and his job is so top secret that no one can know what he does. If you ask him what he did at work that day, he says, “I have been playing golf with my boss,” and grins because it is just a ruse. My youngest sister became an engineer for the Federal Avian Administration and designed part of the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. This is a far cry from some in the family in my parent’s generation. We had an uncle by marriage who actually never learned to read. We studied. We learned, just as my dad told us to do, and we became someone different.
We changed our value in the world from this…..
….to this. We learned things that help us contribute because we listened to Sargent Diablo.
We started something. Because my brothers and sisters listened to my dad, our kids study too. As far as my kids, my oldest son studied so hard that he went to college and law school on complete scholarship, can speak three languages, and played the guitar on a song that went really high on the charts (I’m not sure of the number it hit, but maybe 10.) My oldest daughter is in Washington D. C. She is an N. C. I. S. lawyer who works with the secretary of the Navy. She also speaks three languages and is working on a fourth. My third son is a Math teacher and speaks three languages. My youngest daughter is a kindergarten teacher who is getting a degree in computers. The things she can do with computers is amazing. She also speaks three languages. My dad changed who our family is by telling everyone to study. He raised us up in the world.
I am handing this advice to you that Sargent Diablo gave to us “Never stop learning.” I hope it makes a difference in your life and the life of your family too.