Service Before Self

Published on: Nov 4, 2021
Pictures of LT COL Justin Radford, USAF (Ret) for the article 'Service Before Self' by Beacon Capital Management.
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By Lt. Col. Justin Radford, USAF (Ret.) and Beacon Capital Management Financial Advisor.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” Mark 10:45

As the calendar turns to November and we approach Veterans Day, it’s an opportunity to thank those who have served in the Armed Forces and remember those who gave their last full measure. As a Veteran and member of the Beacon Family, I’m humbled for the opportunity to share my thoughts about service.

Taking Command and Leading By Example 

The Air Force instills three core values in its airmen: 

  1. Integrity First
  2. Excellence in All You Do
  3. Service Before Self

I joined the Air Force with the first two values already woven into my character through my parents and grandparents. However, the third value, “Service Before Self,” took me nineteen years to fully realize its meaning. 

In 2012, I had the opportunity to take command of an Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. I had always practiced being a Servant Leader, but this experience was testing me. When you are a commander, all eyes are upon you, your orders are followed, and everyone laughs at your jokes. There is so much attention placed on you that it is very easy to get a false sense of self importance. One could quickly adopt the mindset that it’s all about you, puff out your chest, spread your peacock feathers, and run the organization from the top down. 

Two weeks into my command, I had an epiphany. They weren’t fawning over me, they were fawning over my position. I also realized the airmen weren’t there to serve me; I was there to serve them and the moms and dads who had entrusted their sons and daughters to my care. I realized it wasn’t about me; it was up to me.”

It was up to me to adopt a “Service Before Self” mindset. It was up to me to cultivate a climate that allowed my airmen to flourish. It was up to me to instill a disciplined culture that ensured excellence in our operation of properly maintaining airplanes.

Some of my most soul-fulfilling and fondest memories came from my time as a commander. I was in a position to serve and make a difference in peoples’ lives.

Transitioning Into Civilian Service

My experience serving in the Air Force created an influx of job opportunities in the civilian sector. I had dozens of offers from defense contractors, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies. After a 25 year career in the Air Force, choosing my next path was starting to feel overwhelming. However, I knew that I wanted to continue a life of service. I was called to a path that allows me to make tangible impacts, serving individuals and their families. A path that eventually led me to serve as a financial advisor at Beacon Capital Management.

At Beacon, I’m surrounded by folks with that same “Service Before Self” mindset. The Beacon team consists of people who serve our clients and community every single day by operating with excellence. People who care and want to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. 

We understand that retirement and financial planning can feel overwhelming, which is why we customize a plan for each client based on their specific needs and goals. We take complex situations and create simple sound strategies. With the amount of genuine appreciation I receive from our amazing clients, it would be easy to fall into that trap again and start to think that it’s about me and my ability to create a sound retirement income plan. Thankfully, early in my career, I learned that “Service Before Self” means that it’s not about me; it’s just up to me.

Lt. Col. Justin Radford, USAF (Ret.) served in the United States Air Force for 25 years as an Enlisted Airmen and a Commissioned Officer. He served stateside in Nevada, New Mexico, Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, and Illinois. Overseas, he served in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. He was awarded 5 Meritorious Service Medals, 3 Air Force Commendation Medals, an Air Force Achievement Medal with Valor, an Air Force Oustanding Unit Award with Valor, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Throughout his career, he received 15 Annual Outstanding Performance Awards. While in Airman Leadership School he received the John Levitow Award, the Commandant Leadership Award, the Academic Achievement Award, and the Distinguished Graduate Award.

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