When I got home I realized just how much I had given up in order to undertake this “grand experiment” and it frightened me a little: Nearly 600 nights sleeping alone instead of with my wife. All of the gatherings of family and friends: Two Thanksgivings, Easters, Forth of Julys, several weddings and births, innumerable birthday and backyard parties. I’ve missed about 15% of my dogs’ short lives with us. Considering they’re probably my #1 favorite form of entertainment, that one hurts more than just about all the others.
That’s not to say that I would have changed anything. I know that when I look back on it I’m immensely thankful for all that I have learned, all the people that I’ve met and have influenced me and for the swift kick in the ass it gave me that has permanently shaken me out of complacency and the perceived “need” of accustomed comforts. This experience has shown me that one person really can make a big difference. In just twenty months I went from sub-human recruit in Basic Combat Training to subject matter expert on roads, power and project selection in Nangarhar, Afghanistan, briefing the CENTCOM commander, four-star General John Abizaid and CFC-A commander Lt. General Karl Eikenberry. I was told on several occasions by Afghan leaders that their personal relationships with me positively influenced their perceptions of Americans and I know that my team and I influenced hundreds if not thousands of young Afghans, leaving lasting, positive impressions of Americans as a kind, caring and giving, yet determined people who want nothing more than for them to inherit a free and open society where they will have opportunities not available to their fathers; where ignorance does not dominate their lives.
In the coming weeks I intend to update the site in several ways: I’ve got several books to add my Recommended Reading list. I’m becoming involved on the local level with the One movement and will be adding links to that organization. I’m starting to work with local business leaders to encourage more private-sector involvement with international economic development. Along the same lines, I’ve taken a real interest in corporate citizenship (a.k.a. Corporate Social Responsibility) – helping companies develop more enlightened and progressive cultures, marketing and managing their image for improved recruiting, retention and community perception. I’m starting to consider offers to do some public speaking and am beginning to organize and develop some presentations that I intend to make available for download on this site. All of these are starting-points for what I consider to be the beginning of a “Phase 2” of my personal journey.
And stay tuned for the long-awaited chronicle of my two years as a Civil Affairs operator in the United States Army…