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Is it worth the risk?

David Cheney, 22, of Beverly, Mass., was killed November 16 when the single-engine plane on which he was a passenger crashed after colliding with a truck on a runway in Maine. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Col. Ken LaTona)

David Cheney, 22, of Beverly, Mass., was killed November 16 when the single-engine plane on which he was a passenger crashed after colliding with a truck on a runway in Maine. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Col. Ken LaTona)

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE - East Granby, Conn. -- Life is full of Risk. You can't leave your house without accepting a certain amount of risk in your life. We all have jobs to do and responsibilities to fulfill so we have to accept some risk in order to get the mission accomplished at our military job, at our civilian job, and at home.

Managing these risks is what each and every one of us has to do every day. We have help, of course. The police tell us we have to wear seatbelts, drive the speed limit, and not talk or text on the cell phone while driving. The Guard tells us that we can't use an iPod unless we are running on the running track. Mom always told us not to run with scissors and to "make good decisions." At this point in our lives, we've probably heard them all. Many of us are busy trying to pass it on to our own kids. You can only do so much and sometimes you have to learn from your own mistakes--or do we? I submit that an intelligent person is the one who learns from others' mistakes. Pilots are taught that rules and regulations are "written in blood." This means that, most likely, someone killed themselves trying to do something and that's why it's against the rules to do that same thing now. In effect, we are learning from "others' mistakes." It's the reason we study accidents. "What happened and how can I prevent it from happening again?" Accident investigation is very scientific and they use "sanitary terms for the participants like "mishap aircraft (MA)" and "mishap pilot (MP)." It's easier to look at things "scientifically" and not "emotionally" that way. I'm not sure that's always a good thing.

"The plane crashed at about 4:44 p.m. Friday when it was taking off and struck a pickup truck, driven by a pilot, that was driving across the airport. The plane then rose to as high as 100 feet off the ground, banked to the left and crashed, with the wreckage largely ending up about 200 yards into the woods near the Dublin Road adjacent to the runway. The aircraft was consumed by flames."

You have to remember that these are "people" we are talking about, just like you and me. This was someone's child, someone's sibling, someone's loved one. To those people they are more than MPs or accident statistics. To me, one of this accident's victims was my nephew. He was a passenger in this plane with his friends. He was 22 years old and a senior in college. He had his whole life ahead of him, and now he's gone. Sometimes things happen that remind us that we are not indestructible. You are not indestructible, and you mean a whole lot to a lot of other people. I am not a fatalist. That means that I don't believe that whatever is going to happen, is going to happen regardless of what I do. Yes, some things are out of our control, but most things happen because of the choices we (and others) make and because of how prepared we are for the unexpected. The choices you make, and the risks you take each and every day affect the outcome of your life (and the people around you).

Should I buy new tires now or wait one more month for the bad weather? I don't want to waste money. Should we drive all night this holiday so we can avoid traffic? Should I shingle my roof myself and save some money even though I don't have any scaffolding? Should I go bungee jumping from a bridge on my Costa Rican vacation? Am I okay to drive home after this many drinks? Should I accept a ride home from a friend who's been drinking almost as much? Whatever the outcome, it will be because of the decisions you, and others around you make. In the words of our mothers, "make good decisions." It's your only opportunity to control the things you can control. It's usually not hard to know what the right thing to do is, but sometimes it's hard to do it.

Stay safe this holiday season, and every other season after that.