One Bad Decision – One lifetime of costs

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. David Johnson
  • 718th Air Maintenance Squadron
In the early morning hours of May 5, 2007, I made what could very well be the worst decision of my life. It has definitely been the worst decision of my Air Force career. 

Around 2 a.m. I decided to drive from a friend's house to my house in Okinawa City, simply because I couldn't sleep. It's about a 25-minute drive. 

Upon waking, I made an assessment of my condition at the time, because I knew I'd been drinking earlier. Feeling fine, I made my way to my car and proceeded through the streets of Okinawa. Everything was fine, so I thought, until I came upon a sobriety checkpoint set up by the local police. The officer asked for my military I.D. and my status of forces agreement driver's license. He quickly checked my documents and asked me if I was willing to take a breathalyzer test. Let me remind you again, I felt fine. I agreed to take the test, thinking I'd be sound asleep in my own bed in a matter of minutes. I blew into a plastic bag, the bag was attached to their analyzer and just like that...my Air Force career came to a screeching halt! 

So many thoughts ran through my head at that moment: is this really happening, is their machine broken, is this a bad dream, and the scariest thought of all what am I going to tell my guys? 

The final cost of the fine levied by the Japanese prosecutor was roughly $2,000. The cost to me and my career are immeasurable. With one bad decision, I killed any chance I had of making senior master sergeant or chief - long term effect - I've locked in my retirement pay with one bad decision. With one bad decision, I lost my position as the 33rd Weapons Section superintendent. With one bad decision, I lost the respect of those around me. With one bad decision I had to face my beloved weapons troops and explain how I'd let them down. There's nothing more gut wrenching than having to face supervisors, commanders and the first sergeant--people I admire and respect--to tell them how I messed up. Not only do I have to answer for my action, so do they. Believe me these people are busy enough without the addition of my self-inflicted misery. 

If you think $2,000 is not a lot of money, take a minute to figure in the added costs of losing your driving privileges. My first day back to work was a $25 taxi ride one-way from my house in Okinawa City to my aircraft maintenance unit. When friends are unable to give me a ride, I still have to change the DUI signs at the gates. This has to happen everyday before 7 a.m. That's around $33 round trip. With that comes the embarrassment of being seen changing the numbers each day, and of course, no sleeping in on the weekends. 

I used to enjoy jumping in my car on weekends and just exploring the beautiful island of Okinawa. No more. I used to enjoy doing normal things on my own schedule. No more. My schedule is dictated by the willingness of friends to provide transportation or my willingness to spend the money on a taxi. My trips are planned around necessity, not leisure. 

We all hear the same "Don't Drink and Drive" lectures, speeches, etc., but no one really quantifies the overall costs of one bad decision. I hope you all learn from my mistake. I thank God everyday that no one was hurt or, even worse, killed by my actions. I hope reading of my experience will help you make better decisions. Please learn from my mistake and don't drink and drive. One bad decision costs more than you think!