By Senior Airman Lauren M. Sprunk, 23rd Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 12, 2017
MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- God. Family. Boxing. That’s all that matters.
But, life’s unpredictable ups and downs often test people in ways that shake the foundations that give them peace.
His father was shot, his aunt died, and his grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. The rage, devastation, and sorrow caused by family turmoil left him reeling. He looked for inner peace in his longtime passion – boxing -- but a torn ligament left him staggering.
With nowhere to turn, Airman 1st Class Isaiah Randall came to understand the true concept of resiliency, leaning on the support from his family, both by blood and by service, and God to guide him through.
“I kept wondering what I had done to deserve all of this,” said Randall, 23rd Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance apprentice. “Then I remembered a phrase from my childhood; God only gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers.”
However, among four months of turmoil, Randall learned for the first time there was more to that phrase he always kept in the back of his mind, and even the strongest soldiers need somewhere to lean.
This had been a foreign concept for the Philadelphia native as he had always been the support for his family, carrying them through a world of drugs and violence. Although he may have left home to serve, his role had not changed, as his family fled to him when tragedy struck.
“My father was shot,” Randall said. “With seven bullet wounds, he was on the brink of death, and my family was calling upon me to seek revenge. They needed me, as they always had, but I joined the Air Force to get away from my past and I knew that I would jeopardize everything I’d been working so hard to achieve if I went back. I didn’t know what to do. I tried praying, but I was losing faith and feeling like nothing could’ve helped me.”
Normally, Randall would channel this anger and feeling of hopelessness into the boxing ring, a relief he has indulged in since he was 11 years old, and a passion he planned to later turn into a career. Unfortunately for him, two recent knee surgeries stripped him of this coping mechanism.
As fast as his defense was taken away, life continued to beat him down.
“Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, several calls from my mother woke me and I knew right away that something was wrong,” Randall said. “When I answered, she was crying hysterically and she said my aunt, my best friend growing up, had died. I lost it.”
Without an escape, he found a saving grace where he least expected, in his Air Force family.
“Randall was broken,” said Master Sgt. Justin Archer, Randall’s section chief. “When he came in, he couldn’t talk; he just sat here crying. None of us really knew what to say, so I just hugged him. He needed it. He was at a point where he needed a wingman, someone like a brother, or father, to be there for him.
“I think that’s when he learned how close-knit not only the Air Force family, but our maintenance family is,” Archer added. “We have a very demanding job. We work a lot of long hours and we’re put under a lot of pressure, but that builds cohesiveness among all of us. We bicker and fight, but just like family, we will always have each other’s back.”
For the first time in his life, he leaned on others to support the weight that his circumstances were placing on him.
“When I went home, it was tempting for me to fall back into my old ways, but I didn’t, and I owe that to my supervision” Randall said. “Any time my mind wandered and I came close to doing something I would regret, I got a message from one of my supervisors. Even if they just asked how my day was going, it was enough to screw my head on straight.
“I never would’ve expected that from them,” Randall said. “A year ago, I looked at my leadership as just a lot of stripes on a uniform that gave me instructions every day. But today, they’re part of my family, they helped save me.”
With this new perspective of his Air Force family, Randall persevered through his time spent home for his aunt’s funeral and returned standing strong. Though he thought he had been through all he could handle, his battle grew tougher. His grandmother was diagnosed with a severe case of breast cancer and wasn’t expected to live long.
“I hit my low and felt like giving up, but I knew no one was going to let me,” Randall said. “I knew I had my family in my corner and then my mom reminded me of one more support I had begun to lose sight of: God.”
Through advice from his family and leadership, coupled with scriptures sent from his mother daily, Randall made a breakthrough and changed his worldview.
“This past year has opened my eyes,” Randall said. “Life is too short to be caught up in nonsense. You have to create a goal for yourself and spend every day working towards that goal until you achieve it. Life is too short to waste.”
Living by his own advice, Randall set his eyes on his future. He took everything out of his room and hung a paper with three lines on it: God, family, and boxing. He hung the paper above his bed so it’d be the first thing he sees every morning, reminding him what it is he’s working for.