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News > Commentary - You never get a second chance
You never get a second chance

Posted 9/2/2008   Updated 9/2/2008 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Jodie Wankowski
Special to Times

9/2/2008 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The origin of this bit of wit is unclear. The quote has been attributed to poet, playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde. It is thought by some to have been authored by American humorist Will Rogers and is even engraved on a plaque at his memorial. Others give creative credit to the great Mark Twain. Madison Avenue, the American launch pad of many memorable advertising campaigns, also lays claim to the slogan, citing its use in a 1966 ad.

A lively debate centers on the quote's originator, but not its content.

There is nothing worse than the faux pas made when greeting a newly arrived commander. Neither party forgets it quickly. Most fathers-in-law can remember a young man's sweaty-palmed handshake given years before the minister proclaimed a couple husband and wife.

Our family just arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base. From the greeting given by the guard at the gate to the housing representative handing us our keys, it is obvious the base is familiar with the author-disputed quote.

Knowing there was no second chance to impress the Wankowski family, base representatives left a strong and long-lasting impression. It goes beyond base officials' actions, but with those of the community as well. Every person is a reflection of the environment in which they live.

Everyone on the installation - troops, military spouses, dependent children, BX cashiers and shoppers at the commissary - are part of the base. Each person living or working on Vandenberg leave the newly arrived with an idea of what the base is like.

Entering the installation we were greeted by a friendly guard welcoming us "Home." The goodwill continued at the billeting desk where we were warmly greeted and offered complimentary coffee while waiting.

Few things can top good free coffee and friendliness is among them. We were pleasantly surprised by the similar kind receptions we were given throughout our first week in our new residence.

Attending services at a new base chapel can create an uneasy feeling. It is hard being the new face in the crowd. Like the lessons from the good book, we found the attendees to have a spirit of acceptance. Upon leaving, we felt included in the religious community.

Soon after mass, we visited the commissary and BX. Many longtime base residents extended a hello or welcome. At the housing office, the Wankowski clan's needs were cared for in both a professional and personal manner.

Our new neighbors have introduced themselves. Some have dropped off information about upcoming community events. A spouse a few blocks down offered to give us information on the Vandenberg's Spouses Club. It has felt like more like joining a neighborhood than being the new kids on the block.

Evidence of a good first impression made is an episode that occurred on our new block within days of occupying base housing. Many children live in the surrounding area. A child from one block over fell down-hard. With gravity unforgiving and cement equally cruel, the fall left a mark. Though it was only a flesh wound, the surrounding housing residents saw to the little one's banged up knee and his comfort. Within minutes, the injured party's mom was informed. The accident response was a true coming together of the community to aid a member-to serve a greater good. This is truly a rarity in the post-Andy Griffith age.

Vandenberg Air Force Base needs no second chance. They have made a fantastic and powerful first impression. The members of our family gather a strong sense of community. We grasp the care the local military members and dependents invest in their area. It is a contagious feeling of pride and caring.

Late last night, a car pulled into the driveway of the vacant house next door. Out of it came a weary family with out of state license plates.

Looking out the window, I remembered how we were in their shoes only a few short weeks ago. I made a mental note to go over and introduce myself in the morning. Hopefully, they will pick up on how welcome they are in this community and it will positively color their perception. I must be sure to gather some community event flyers, maybe bake some cookies to take over tomorrow because someone once said, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

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