Turns out second place isn't so bad

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Lucas Morrow
  • 914th Air Refueling Wing

Chaplain Maj. Matthew Bryant is the full-time chaplain at the 914th Air Refueling Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, New York. He provides spiritual care to airmen and gives counsel to leaders on morality, ethics, and quality of life issues that Airmen and their families can sometimes face. Even though chaplaincy is a devotional career, it wasn't his first path in life.

That silver medal will collect just as much dust as a gold medal.
Bryant grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, a town where sports played a major role in his life. In his high school years, Bryant felt his future was wrestling. In his senior year, he was carving a path that would hopefully lead to achieving that dream, and he was good. Going into the conference tournament, he was on target to take home gold. But he took home a second-place win and thought his dream was over.

"I was devastated," Bryant recalls. "I thought my future just disappeared, but my dad just looked at me and said Matthew, that silver medal will collect just as much dust as a gold medal."

He said at the time he didn't understand what he meant.

"In fact, I was kind of angry," Bryant said. "I didn't understand what my dad was trying to teach me."

Bryant said it took years for his words to sink in.

A few years passed by. He's since started his own family and a career as an Air Force chaplain. At the time, they were packing their home in Pennsylvania to move to Louisiana to start a new chapter in life. Bryant reached for an old box tucked away on a closet shelf. He opened the box and found the long forgotten second-place medal. He wiped away the dust and immediately recalled his father's advice.

"I just broke down into tears," said Bryant. "I remembered how bad I wanted to win; how lopsided my values had become by placing my joy in temporal and earthly things that can so easily be taken away. But here it is, like dad said, collecting dust."

Bryant said he now keeps his second-place medal in his nightstand.

"That way I'm always reminded of the difference between what I want and what really matters." Bryant said.

He called his father to tell him the story and to thank him for the best piece of advice he's ever received.

"I don't remember saying that," his dad said. "But I believe you."