The ripple effect
Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson Air Force 3rd Wing command chief Jose “JAB” Barraza didn’t grow up in the most ideal of situations.
In fact, he was a gangbanger, born to two rival gang members in the Los Angeles area.
And he liked to fight, which led to an incarceration stint as a teenager. Which led to more fighting, not just to protect himself but to ward off sexual assault attempts.
This didn’t always work.
“I know what it’s like to be stripped on my manhood,” he said.
After he was released, he was shot for the fifth time. He was 17 years old.
Right at the moment his life threatened to veer out of control, he met an Air Force recruiter, who encouraged him to enlist.
That was the turning moment. Or, as Barraza said more bluntly, “That saved my life.”
Barraza shared his story to Eagle River High School students on April 24, talking in an upbeat tone and using a lot of what he referred to as “hooah” speech, based on a type of positive yet slightly hokey feel-good attitude that Barraza incorporates inside his daily life, even though he admits it can drive co-workers crazy.
People sometimes laugh at him, he said, they groan at his jokes, tell him to tone it down, ask him to please, please stop being so darned cheerful all the time.
But, he said, this is who he is: He’s a positive person who chooses to view the world in a positive light.
According to Barraza’s “hooha” philosophy, each person’s interactions impact someone else.
“It’s the ripple effect,” he said.
He urged students to rise to the occasion, to act with positive, not negative, energy.
“When you get up in the morning, think of how your ripple effect will impact others,” he said. “You can’t control what happens or how other people act but you can control your own ripple.”
This, he admitted, isn’t always as easy as it sounds. As a father, husband, and military member, staying positive can be a struggle. Because life isn’t fair. And sooner or later it’s going to smack you in the face.
“Don’t give up,” he said. “You have to have the grit to push forward.”
He urged students to make a positively influence one person.
“And they will become your ripple effect,” he said.
At the end of the talk the students rewarded Barraza with their own ripple: A standing ovation.