Service to the Nation

Wed, 2009-09-23 23:34

Hi, this is Chris. I just finished the book In A Time of War by Bill Murphy Jr. The author picked up where David Lipsky left off in Absolutely American, which followed my class through our four years at West Point. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, happened at the start of my senior year, and the members of the class of 2002 soon realized they’d be the first class to graduate into a war since Vietnam.

Murphy picked 20 or so of my classmates and followed them through their five-year commitments in the military as they scattered to different posts around the world. Pretty much everyone ended up in Iraq or Afghanistan. Some were wounded. Others were killed. All of them were changed forever by their experiences. I literally laughed out loud at times and felt sick to my stomach at others because the material was so dead-on accurate.

In a Time of War book coverI know I’m biased because the book is about my class (I knew most of the folks that Murphy wrote about), but I honestly believe In A Time of War captures how I feel about my five years in the Army better than I could ever explain. It’s certainly better than any other books I’ve read about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the rest of the written material out there is inaccurate, melodramatic, or just too cheesy for me to take seriously.

I think all but one of the officers chronicled in the book chose to leave the Army at the end of their five-year commitments instead of staying in until retirement. This came as no surprise to me since there were a million different reasons why I wanted to leave the Army when my time was up (never-ending deployments, bureaucracy, inept leadership, etc.).

What intrigued me was how many chose to continue serving their nation when they got out, albeit in a different form. One guy went to work for a company installing windmills to generate power. Another went to work for the Rocky Mountain Institute, which encourages environmentally friendly capitalism. One girl quit a job as a defense contractor to become a teacher because she missed the sense of fulfillment in her life from serving others. I think the Army has suffered a great loss in the number of good junior officers that have quit in recent years, but I think those same leaders are fanning out into America and are really going to make a difference in coming years. It’s one of the biggest reasons I think this country still has a shot at turning itself around.