Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Kid Who Wanted to Play Army

I recently sent a bunch of "friend" messages to high school classmates who are on Fcebook. I left home when I enlisted almost 40 years ago and have been mostly out of touch with Stoneham ever since. But now I am looking forward to my 40th reunion in 2011.

Being over here made me think more about high school and how life twists and turns. In September, when I started writing stories that got picked up on the Web across the world, my friend Meredith Gould reminded me that "wherever you go, there you are." Taking a year off from public relations had the result of me getting more stories published than in any two-month period in my life. So I go 6,000 miles from my writing job and--here I am.

Steve Thorley, a neighbor on Oak Street who graduated in 1973, wrote to me on Facebook remembering me as the kid who always wanted to play Army--even when the other kids had moved on to stick and ball sports. At six or seven, I was the kid with the toy gun. And here I am, fifty years later, back in the Army and carrying a gun, when every other soldier in my age group has long since left the Army or is retired. I left the Army in 1984 because I wanted to be a writer and thought the commitment the Reserves required would mean I could not both become a writer and be a soldier. Turns out I would have been OK.

My wife Annalisa, following Steven Covey and philosophers all the way back to Aristotle, thinks we are defined by out habits. CS Lewis agrees. He says real virtue must become habit. It must not be simply an act of will, but virtue should train the will to respond correctly.

I have written recently that I had a soldier's reaction in situations where a public relations manager would do something different. My habits right now say I am a writer and a soldier and they do not seem mutually exclusive. So I am both the man who is observing intently to get the right detail for the story or the right picture to go with it. And I have the habits of a man who safely carries a weapon everywhere every day and who reacts to do the right thing for his soldiers first and get the story second.