TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Ringing out high above the indistinct, murmuring conversations of the bustling throngs of Airmen moving hurriedly through the dining facility at Travis Air Force Base, California, is a familiar phrase of encouragement.
“Alright! You stay awesome!”
The loud, genial tones with which the phrase is said invite smiles and, in some instances, bewilderment from those within earshot.
The words come from David Grout, a food attendant and cashier with Pride Industries, a civilian company contracted to assist in managing food sales in the base DFAC. The words are a means of goodbye from a man keenly aware of life’s struggles and the importance of finding the resilience to overcome them.
“At first, the words were just a play on Ron Burgundy’s, ‘you stay classy, San Diego,’ from Anchorman, but as time went on, it developed a deeper meaning,” said Grout. “The idea that you can tell someone to ‘be awesome’ is great, but by telling them to ‘stay awesome,’ you remind them that, yes, they already are awesome, but that even on their worst day, they’re ultimately better than it—that they can overcome it.”
In offering such a subtle gesture of encouragement to all those that come through his line, Grout has helped contribute to the resiliency of an entire generation of new Travis Airmen. Airman 1st Class SaiAnni Hyatt, a 60th Dental Squadron dental assistant, feels Grout is an integral part of the mission.
“[Grout] evokes a lot of positivity in the Airmen who he reaches with his words,” said Hyatt. “I think we all sometimes have those days where we don’t want to get up or be where we need to be, but when someone offers some kind words as he does, it makes you feel that you’re at least doing something right. Sometimes it’s those seemingly unimportant choice words that can bring about the biggest changes.”
When someone in a squadron is feeling a certain emotion very strongly, it’s easy for that emotion to spread to everyone around them, said Hyatt. It’s Grout’s mission, he says, to try to make that emotion a positive one.
“Bad things will eventually happen to you,” said Grout. “That’s just a fact of life. It’s not about ignoring them, though. It’s about not letting them overtake you. Having a good or bad day isn’t always a choice, but the ways in which we move forward from those bad days or what we do with the feelings they might cause is something that’s always in our control.”
In addition to his demeanor, Grout also encourages a positive attitude by hosting a YouTube channel called Neon Renegades that aims to spread positivity through palatable topics like video games and cocktail recipes. More significant than this, however, is how Grout turns every facet of his life into an opportunity to encourage, fortify and lift up those around him.
“I hope that in whatever small interactions I have with the Airmen who come through my line, I’m able to make some sort of impact on them and they, in turn, attempt to make that same impact on others,” said Grout. “I’ve had the chance to talk to some of the Airmen here and others I’ve managed to even build a dialogue with, and I’ve become aware of how easy it can sometimes be to feel stuck in the mud. But I also know how easy it is to be pulled out of it, and I try to offer that hand when I see someone who looks like they might need it.”
At a time when many Airmen are far away from their families, Hyatt says the importance of a helping hand can never be understated.
“If you don’t foster a support system, it can make it hard to do your job to the best of your abilities,” said Hyatt. “In a sense, you are your thoughts, and when those thoughts are bad, there’s a tendency to produce bad work. I think we just have to all hold tight to the idea that we’re one force and whether the motivation to be good to one another comes from religion, thoughts of the weekend or David Grout, we need to stick by one another. Especially when one of us inevitably stumbles.”