Life Lessons

I’m honor to be participating in the NY Time’s homefires blog:


I’m occasionally asked what I’ve learned from my experiences in the military.

My responses, particularly before my third tour, have always involved leadership, confidence, knowledge of myself and of people in general. This hasn’t changed. I remain grateful.

Sometimes I feel the pressure of expectation to cast myself as a victim of my experiences, but in truth, I think I’ve benefited from them.

The Army, and especially the infantry, gives its junior leaders tremendous responsibility. The rough world of the 82nd Airborne Division was a steep learning curve for me, a freshly minted lieutenant accustomed to the studious habits of Stanford University, of its School of Engineering, no less. I learned an awful lot and, I think, emerged a better person.

More recently, I’ve realized some of my beliefs have formed so slowly and subtly that their learning has been entirely unappreciated. I’ve learned that no matter what, life goes on — it’ll do so with or without any one of us — and I’ve found a measure of respect for selfishness; for people who look out for themselves and their lives yet to come. This is surely cynical.

If there’s redemption in the selfishness, it has to do with loving life, with respecting yourself enough not to end your days prematurely or in futile pursuits. Yes, I said it. Somewhere between my second and third tours, I came to believe that our foreign, undeclared wars flaunted our Constitution and made us less safe — from terrorism, from debt and from tyranny at home. Believing this wasn’t easy, but I couldn’t help it. Without faith in our military endeavors, my long-held notions about duty, heroism and fighting the good fight didn’t survive long.

I think you’re only a hero for as long as your image is useful. . . . (Read more from

Now that I’m published in the NY Times, am I still allowed to complain about the media?