A Border Patrol agent searches a destroyed mobile home for survivors in the wake of Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Texas, Aug. 27, 2017. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Glenn Fawcett)

COLUMN: Every Second Matters in Motivation, Service, Helping Each Other Stay on Mission

This piece represents the views of the author and not U.S. Customs and Border Protection or the Department of Homeland Security

Fact: every second counts.

Can we begin today by agreeing that memories are made up of moments in our lives that will remain with us forever? They are seconds in time that for one reason or another will remain with us as a great memory, as a lesson learned, or as something which may have hindered our spirit in some way.

I’m often reminded of my mom and grandparents explaining two simple facts of life to me when I was a kid.

  • We are poor Hispanic migrants.
  • The hard work of picking crops is all we’ve ever known in life.

There was never a discussion of continuing my education after graduating from high school.

There was never a conversation of the possibility of having a chosen career path nor the hard work it would entail to achieve it.

There was simply the acceptance of our current situation and the strong work ethic it demanded of us.

And, we were happy. Poor, yes, but happy with what we had and how we lived.

Although I had to start working at the age of 7 to help place food on the table and clothes on our backs, I never suffered.

At least I never saw it as suffering. It was hard work, but it was also all I knew.

I look back to those memories and cherish them all. I do so because it was our situation that instilled in me the desire for something more, something different. I dreamed of improving my situation while also honoring my upbringing and my family.

Like so many others who dream of continuing their education and completing it, I’m no different.

I wanted a career path of my own choosing and have now served our great country for 25 years. Ten years in the United States Army and 15 years as a federal law enforcement agent working at the southern border.

I’m the recipient of a Foreign Medal of Honor and a published author. I also travel throughout the country as a motivational speaker encouraging students and professionals alike to keep moving forward. A huge part of my speeches is that everything is possible in life and that we must never succumb to the challenges before us.

I have an amazing wife and kids whose love and support grant me strength and purpose.

These are things I could only dream of as a poor Hispanic migrant. Not a day goes by that I don’t look back and appreciate everything I’ve been through. My past has made me the person I am today and has prepared me for what’s to come.

The other day, a friend of mine asked me why I post motivational messages on my social media accounts and why am I adamant in posting about the hard work of the agents and officers of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

I could have easily said that it was so that others could be encouraged to keep fighting the good fight. Especially in today’s political and social climate of so many individuals being against law enforcement officers throughout our entire country. I think this answer could have sufficed and yet it took me a while to respond. In that moment, I realized that there is more to it than that.

Although it takes me a few seconds to do those posts for social media, it is important to remember that it takes ONE second for someone to give up.

Yes, it takes a long time of hardships, failures and struggles to finally get to that point; but only One Second to stop fighting.

One Second to finally call it quits and either give up on your chosen career, your dream, your goals, your family, your friends and, worst of all, life.

Why do I say this or even bring this up when it’s such a dark subject and you more than likely believed this was an article on working hard and never giving up?

Well, it still is in a way, but please take it more as a calling to do our part and just take a few seconds of our day to encourage someone. Let’s all do what we can to keep each other from reaching that One Second.

Another part of my answer could possibly be a selfish act. Selfish? Yes… selfish. Please allow me to explain.

The past 30 months have not been easy for me. I have struggled and gone through some obstacles that at times have seemed impossible to deal with. To be honest, I had even reached the point of wanting to seek a different career as a way of escaping the situation I was in. A part of me had chosen to simply disregard all my years of service and didn’t care to even wear a badge anymore. This after “being in uniform” for 25 years of my life.

I had allowed the political and social climate around me to undermine everything I stand for. To belittle my accomplishments and, in the process, weaken my spirit.

Sadly, this is taking place all around us and many people either don’t, can’t, or won’t see it.

As for my actions in using motivational posts on social media being selfish, this is why:

I’m not simply doing it to encourage others to keep going. I’m doing everything possible to continue motivating myself. I’m fighting like hell to not give up and continue one day at a time with one step at a time. I’m trying to avoid that One Second where I finally give up hope. Motivating others to do the same helps me achieve that.

I gain hope by giving hope.

I gain strength by helping others gain their own strength.

Seeing others take one more step forward motivates me to do the same.

Words such as escape and quit have never been a part of me.

The struggles I’ve faced in life have brought me to my knees from time to time, but they’ve never managed to defeat me completely. As much as those challenges have attempted to change the person I am, they’ve failed.

I am the same person I’ve always been. A Hispanic American like countless others who began life picking crops during childhood. A person who has worked tirelessly to have both a military career and a federal law enforcement career.

The same Hispanic American and only child who wrote a long-winded letter to his mom after she passed away and later had that letter become an award-winning book titled Proud American: The Migrant, Soldier, and Agent.

So why write about this now? Well, the simple and silly answer is “because a friend asked me a question.”

Yet as simple as the question is, the answer deserved some digging into. It deserved a long moment of self-reflection. It deserved a few seconds of my time.

I write this because it highlights how many of us continue to struggle through life by having to deal with individuals who are willing to do their absolute best to keep you down regardless of our chosen career paths, our nationality, political beliefs and even our faith in God.

America’s story, after all, is a story of adversity and resiliency.

It’s the entire premise of my journey in life and my desire to help others avoid that One Second.

All in the hope that I can grant them some form of motivation to keep on going and to never, ever forget their reasons for embarking on their own journeys and careers.

So many other disabled veterans before me have worked hard to achieve similar goals in life such as finishing college and growing professionally in their chosen fields. It is through their shared drive and determination that I’ve been able to do the same. They encouraged me to never give up. They continue to do so today.

Strength fuels strength in others and great leaders create even greater leaders. I believe it’s a form of evolution that is passed on in the way of mentorship.

It is my belief that there are plenty more individuals out there in similar situations. People from all walks of life struggling to survive and having a tough time taking that next step forward. It’s important that we acknowledge this fact and do what we can to always encourage one another to keep going. After all, it only takes a few seconds of our time.

We can never give up. We must never quit trying to be better.

Someone is always looking at us and taking note of our own actions. We may not know it, but our actions may be what helps them take another step forward.

Our actions may be what motivates others to also strive for greatness and to never forget where they started nor what they’ve accomplished so far.

We may be that tiny window that allows others to see and realize there’s so much more to achieve.

We may be that glimmer of hope that others have been struggling to see and have finally found it in us.

We often mold our own actions by the examples of others. We work hard at trying to emulate the best of others around us. It is in that spirit that I ask you to never give up on me as I will never give up on you. In the end, we are Stronger Together.

Let’s avoid that One Second, TOGETHER!

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Sergio A. Tinoco is the author of Proud American: The Migrant, Soldier, and Agent and has joined HSToday as a columnist to provide insights and facts about the conditions, challenges, and humanity of the situation on our southwest border. Tinoco started his journey to America as a poor migrant worker of Mexican descent, having to pick crops for a living from the age of 7. As a way to break from the family cycle of farm labor and depending on government welfare programs, he joined the United States Army and served 10 years on active duty. He deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina shortly after the Bosnian War only to find and deal with the aftermath of the genocide that took place there and be caught in the middle of several attacks. His experiences in Bosnia ultimately led to experiencing signs and symptoms related to PTSD. After completing 10 years of military service, Sergio joined the U.S. Border Patrol. Being of Mexican descent and having family in South Texas and in Mexico introduced new issues of having to counter threats against his family and ill-willed opinions of him for arresting and deporting “his own kind.” He is currently serving as a Border Patrol agent, and all observations and columns are his own and not endorsed by CBP or the Border Patrol. Sergio A. Tinoco was born and raised in Rio Grande Valley, commonly known to them as RGV. As a child, he had gone through many struggles. Having to come up with a big decision to leave his family behind at such a young age, Sergio began to live a dangerous life in the battlefield with the US Army. Between the Army and the DHS, he has worked in government service for over twenty years. He earned a master’s degree in organizational management. His wife, also a military veteran, works for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Together, they strive to provide greater opportunities and aspirations to their kids.

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