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NEWS | April 22, 2014

Learning from history — does what you do matter?

By Toby Housey Equal Opportunity

This year, April 27 through May, make up the Days of Remembrance, a time set aside each year to memorialize the victims of the Holocaust. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has identified the 2014 theme as "Confronting the Holocaust: American Responses," a very appropriate theme as the U.S. decision to take action in World War II saved many lives.

To fully understand the impact of action versus inaction, imagine an Airman experiences a traumatic event in his or her life which affects their ability to accomplish their job and effectively function as a member of society. The individual's performance suffers and the symptoms or indirect cry for help is ignored. The individual ultimately succumbs to the trauma and does the unthinkable. Had a bystander (supervisor, co-worker, family member or friend) intervened, things might have turned out differently. The individual might have received the assistance they needed to recover from the adversity, but no one took the time to engage or help the member. So in essence, our actions or inactions matter.

During World War II, more than 6 million Jews were murdered in Europe as a result of racial prejudice. Annually, federal, state, and local government organizations remember the Holocaust during the Days of Remembrance observance. Although many people did not actively participate in the cruel and inhumane treatment of Holocaust victims; many also did not take action to prevent the loss of lives, just as the individuals described in the scenario above. These individuals could have taken measures to mitigate or halt these acts, but instead, many stood by, took no action and people died.

One act or helping hand from one person could have saved at least one life. Just think of the number of lives that could have been spared if many more people had taken action. Did their actions matter? Yes, because a life which could have been saved, was perhaps lost. As a nation, we have always thrived on taking action to change things for the better. Hopefully, once these Days of Remembrance are over, we can walk away saying, "never again."

I challenge you to take a stand when you see something that is wrong. If you see someone being discriminated against unlawfully, if you see someone violating a standard, or someone indirectly crying for help, take a stand and respond.

Your actions do matter. You have the potential to save a life and shape a society.