Integrity First: McConnell Senior NCO sets example

  • Published
  • By Capt. Zach Anderson
  • 931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs
Master Sgt. James Carter could have simply walked away.

It would have been so easy. No one saw his car door, propelled by a violent gust of Kansas wind, swing wide open and slam into the side of the vehicle parked next to him. No one heard the dull thump of the impact. No one saw the dent it left behind.

No one, that is, except Carter and his friend.

"We had just finished shopping at the Base Exchange and I was putting my stuff in my car when the wind caught the door and it hit the side of the car parked right next to me," said Carter, superintendent of wing inspections for the 22nd Air Refueling Wing here. "I took a look and it was obvious there was a dent."

It was at that moment that Carter experienced an integrity check.

"I didn't really even think about it," said Carter. "I just decided that since the owner wasn't there I would leave him a note to apologize and provide my information. I was in the process of putting the note on his car when he came walking up."

Master Sgt. Johnny Stephenson wasn't sure what the individual standing next to his car was doing.

"I really didn't even pay any attention to him. I was about to get in my car when he came around and introduced himself and told me he had dinged my vehicle," said Stephenson, administrative assistant for the Air Force Reserve 931st standards and evaluations office. "He told me he was sorry and that he wanted to make it right and pay for the damage."

Stephenson said he was impressed with Carter's willingness to not only to admit to the door ding, but also his desire to pay for the damages. The two men exchanged information and Stephenson took his car in to get a repair estimate.

"He was just so honest and forthright about it," said Stephenson. "When I got the estimate, I told him that if he was insistent on paying something, he should just pay half of it and we'd call it even. After all, it was an accident. But he absolutely refused. He kept on saying it was his fault and he was going to pay in full and make it right."

"I told him no," said Carter. "It was my fault. I will cover the whole thing. If someone dinged my car like that, I'd want them to do the same thing."

True to his word, Carter paid in full the cost of the repair. His willingness to take responsibility for the entire incident left Stephenson impressed.

"It really is a great example of integrity," said Stephenson. "You don't see that very often with things like door dings; things people think are just small. Most of the time people will just get in their cars and drive away. But he didn't do that. His actions represented the core value we are all supposed to uphold, with integrity first. It's just a great example that I think others should know about and follow."

Carter said the incident wasn't so much about setting an example as it was about just doing the right thing.

"The idea of integrity, you can talk about it all you want, but for all of us it comes down to actually showing it," said Carter. "A person with integrity does what is right no matter who is watching. The only people who knew about the door ding were me and the friend I was with. But I had to do something. It's that simple. You do what is right. Integrity is not just about reciting the core values. It's stepping up and doing what is right."